In Chicago, 1893, black people were excluded from the activities of the Worlds’ Columbian Exposition, also known as The World’s Fair. The event had been dubbed “the White City” to describe the area at the Court of Honor. At first, blacks could work at the event, but not attend. A young Paul Laurence Dunbar was a lavatory attendant, young James Weldon Johnson was a chair boy and Nancy Green worked as Aunt Jemima. Other performers included Sissierietta Jones the opera singer, Scott Joplin, classical violinist Joseph Douglass and Abigail Christensen.

Ida B. Wells led the black protest of the fair. To answer the boycott and make money, fair organizers designated Friday, August 25th as “Colored American Day.”  Thousands gathered to hear Frederick Douglass, former Ambassador to Haiti, speak at the Haitian pavilion. Other speakers were Booker T. Washington and Hallie Brown. Wilberforce, Hampton and Atlanta University had exhibits on the grounds and African natives from Dahomey had been flown in to rebuild their Fon village on site.

Some blacks were insulted by the fair Board’s decision, especially after they announced that 2,000 watermelons would be brought in for Colored American Day. Among those disappointed was protest organizer, Ida B. Wells.

The World’s Columbian Exposition was originally composed to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World in 1492. The grounds covered over 600 acres. Over 27 million people attended the fair over the six-month period with only 2,500 people in attendance for Colored American Day.

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4 thoughts on “Little Known Black History Fact: Colored American Day

  1. Tom Michael on said:

    The article has it backwards. Initially, blacks could go to the fair, but they couldn’t get jobs. The lack of jobs and the lack of exhibits on black life and inventions is what Ida Wells was protesting. Her protests led to the hirings. Also, Douglass was there for pretty much the whole fair. The rest is mostly right, except of course for the tribesmen being “flown in.” See,0,1555067.story and especially

  2. So let me get this straight. In 1893, 11 years before the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, A group were “flown” in to the Chicago World’s Fair to rebuild their native village? How did that happen? Time travel? Hot air balloon? Magic carpet? Please explain.

  3. What about this article? Will anyone help them get Justice?

    50 years MLK Day celebration: KKK Threat saddens my heart. They’re marching I’m still dealing with racism, unfair education system and violations of injustices. 50 years later, there is less of an” innocent until proven guilty system.” There is less interest in remedy injustices and equal rights. There is almost no interest in discovering the truth. People that can provide legal help, don’t have time unless you have the money. By the time a poor person can save the money, the statue time of limitations is up. This plan works out perfect for the persons and corporations in the wrong. However, it keeps the oppressed depressed for they have waited so long for nothing.
    Their justice fighting went from days to years without seeing JUSTICE come to light. The court will not hear the long kept evidence. So, while we cry for help, they flip the calendar of no justice.

    rjohnson4ob(at)gmail (dot) com

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