This past Monday at the National Zoo in Washington D.C., there was an exhibition of dated black and white photos called “Easter Monday: An African-American Tradition.” As far back as 1891, black families would come in their Easter clothing to the National Zoo the Monday after Easter.
Some said that it was because the black families of the past weren’t allowed at the White House Easter Egg Roll. Others believed that the black housekeepers had to work in the homes on Easter Sunday, so Easter was celebrated on Monday at the Zoo.
The day at the National Zoo was and is filled with an Easter egg hunt, trivia games and music. The traditional Easter Panda makes an appearance. In the past, there was African storytelling and performances by an a cappella gospel quintet, a Caribbean and reggae band, a steel-drum band, a dance team, and a double-dutch jump rope team. Zoo-goers told the press that it felt more like a family reunion. This year, the National Zoo had an estimated 20,000 visitors.
The festivities of Easter Monday at D.C.’s National Zoo were marred in the past decade with violence. In 2011, a stabbing involving a 14-year-old boy dampened the mood and safety of zoo-goers. In 2000, a violent incident of gun violence interrupted festivities when a teenager shot and wounded seven children at the entrance of the park. Despite the incidents, African American families continued the tradition year after year.
Interestingly, but perhaps not for the same reasons, the zoo in Asheboro, NC had to close its gates on Easter Monday when the crowd reached over capacity. It was the second time in history the park closed its doors temporarily to visitors. The NC park received over 12,775 guests by 4 p.m. that afternoon.
(Photo: The Smithsonian National Zoo)