Race and the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition of 1895
Publication Year: 2010
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.
Published by: University of Georgia Press
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On October 14 and 15, 2008, the Department of History at Georgia Southern University hosted the Eighteenth Annual Jack N. and Addie D. Averitt Lecture Series. The speaker was Theda Perdue, Atlanta Distinguished Professor of Southern Culture at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. Taken together, Professor Perdue’s lectures addressed the theme of race relations and the 1895 Cotton States Exposition and were among the most...
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In the 1990s, when I lived in Lexington, Kentucky, I went once a month to a weekend antique sale in a defunct tobacco barn. One day I spied a small brown cube in a box of odds and ends marked “$10.” It was a tiny cotton bale labeled “Souvenir Cotton States and International Exposition Atlanta Ga., 1895.” I knew that this was a memento from a pivotal event in the history of the South. I bought...
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I was thrilled when Alan Downs invited me to present the eighteenth annual Jack N. and Addie D. Averitt Lectures at Georgia Southern University. Alan and the members of the lecture committee, Anastatia Sims and Lisa Denmark, gave me an opportunity to explore race in the New South in a narrowly focused way that eases me into a broader study on Indians in the segregated South. The...
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In the fall of 1895 Atlanta, Georgia, hosted the Cotton States and International Exposition, a world’s fair intended to encourage sectional reconciliation, attract northern capital, and stimulate international trade.1 Like the 1876 U.S. centennial celebration in... Philadelphia and the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the
CHAPTER ONE. Beyond the “Atlanta Compromise”
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On September 18, 1895, Booker T. Washington made history. He sat on the auditorium stage for the opening ceremonies of the Cotton States and International Exposition. Washington was the only African American among the dignitaries assembled on the platform to inaugurate this celebration of southern progress, national unity, and international ambitions. With every seat occupied...
CHAPTER TWO. Vanishing Indians
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In June 1895 the superintendent of the Cherokee Agency, located in the Great Smoky Mountains 160 miles northeast of Atlanta, wrote Charles Collier, president of the Cotton States Exposition, offering the services of North Carolina’s Fourth Regimental Band for one month during the fair. The band consisted of twenty Cherokee boys who attended the Cherokee Training...
CHAPTER THREE: The Global South
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In the spring of 1895 publicity about the Cotton States and International Exposition piqued the interest of Samuel P. Hall of Petersburg, Virginia. Times were tough. The depression that began in earnest in 1893 seemed reluctant to loosen its hold on the nation, and the prospects for economic success were bleak. Hall was an enterprising young man, so he wrote to Isaac W. Avery, the...
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The Cotton States and International Exposition closed on December 31, 1895. The buildings, intended to be temporary, gradually fell into disrepair and were demolished. In 1904 the City of Atlanta bought the land on which the exposition had taken place from the Piedmont Park Exposition Company. The park, which the exclusive Piedmont Driving Club originally had owned...
APPENDIX: Teaching the Cotton States Exposition
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Page Count: 220
Illustrations: 31 b&w photos, 1 table
Publication Year: 2010