Race and the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition of 1895
The Cotton States Exposition of 1895 was a world's fair in
Atlanta held to stimulate foreign and domestic trade for a region
in an economic depression. Theda Perdue uses the exposition to
examine the competing agendas of white supremacist organizers and
the peoples of color who participated.
White organizers had to demonstrate that the South had solved
its race problem in order to attract business and capital. As a
result, the exposition became a venue for a performance of race
that formalized the segregation of African Americans, the
banishment of Native Americans, and the incorporation of other
people of color into the region's racial hierarchy.
White supremacy may have been the organizing principle, but
exposition organizers gave unprecedented voice to minorities.
African Americans used the Negro Building to display their
accomplishments, to feature prominent black intellectuals, and to
assemble congresses of professionals, tradesmen, and religious
bodies. American Indians became more than sideshow attractions when
newspapers published accounts of the difficulties they faced. And
performers of ethnographic villages on the midway pursued various
agendas, including subverting Chinese exclusion and protesting
violations of contracts. Close examination reveals that the Cotton
States Exposition was as much about challenges to white supremacy
as about its triumph.
Subjects: History, Sociology
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