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New Documentary, Human Zoos, Will Get Public Premiere, November 11 at Oregon Film Festival

David Klinghoffer | @d_klinghoffer

Human Zoos

A new documentary by our colleague John West is well timed. In Human Zoos, Dr. West explores the shameful legacy of pseudo-scientific racism that has trailed Darwinian theory from its inception down to today, with the emergence of the so-called alt-right.

The film will premiere at the Oregon Documentary Film Festival on Saturday evening, November 11. It will release to the general public next year.

Human Zoos

Watch the trailer on YouTube:

The film tells a provocative and largely unknown story:

Human Zoos is a documentary that tells the story of how thousands of indigenous peoples were put on public display in America in the early decades of the twentieth century. Often touted as “missing links” between man and apes, these native peoples were harassed, demeaned, and jeered at. Their public display was arranged with the enthusiastic support of the most elite members of the scientific community, and it was promoted uncritically by America’s leading newspapers. The documentary also tells the story of a courageous group of African-American ministers who tried to stop one such “Human Zoo” in New York City. The documentary features Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Pamela Newkirk, author of Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga.

That’s right, displaying human beings in a zoo setting represented the “scientific consensus” of its day. Ministers and others who protested what we now understand to be an outrage were, I suppose you’d have to say, “anti-science” or “science deniers.”

The premiere is part of Session 3 at the documentary festival at Portland’s Avalon Theatre Downtown. Human Zoos runs 48 minutes. I’ve seen an early cut and it’s fascinating. The program begins at 6:45 pm. Admission is $12, including tax. Buy tickets and find more information here.

Human Zoos

The other films that are part of the session are unfamiliar to me, of course.

Dr. West is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and Associate Director of the Center for Science & Culture. With the film’s editor, Rachel Adams, CSC’s Special Projects Coordinator, he’ll be on hand for this public premiere. So please come out and join us!