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[Detail] North Star, June 2, 1848. Edited by Frederick Douglass.

Persuasive Language | Oratory | Writing a Life: The Obituary | Designing an African American Pavilion for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 | Letter Writing

Designing an African American Pavilion for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893

In 1893, Chicago hosted an international exposition, or world’s fair. Called the Columbian Exposition (to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s “discovery” of the New World), the fair featured exhibits from 46 countries, displays of new technologies, and the introduction of many new consumer products.

African Americans hoped that the Columbian Exposition would both serve as a source of jobs for African Americans, and also provide an opportunity to showcase their achievements following the Civil War. Unfortunately, their hopes went unfulfilled, as no exhibit space was made available and few jobs at the fair went to African Americans. Frederick Douglass and journalist Ida B. Wells published a pamphlet titled “The Reason Why” to inform people about the exclusion of African Americans from the fair.

Douglass, a former ambassador to Haiti, was asked to serve as one of Haiti’s representatives at the exposition. He and Wells set up shop in the Haitian pavilion, handing out copies of “The Reason Why” to people who passed through. Thus, he was able to some make information about African Americans available to fair-goers.

Use information from “The Reason Why” to design an African American Pavilion for the Columbian Exposition of 1893. The pavilion can have several different exhibits; for example, it might include exhibits on the history of slavery, accomplishments of African Americans since Emancipation, discriminatory laws enacted in the United States, and the achievements of Frederick Douglass. Your design should list the exhibits, providing a brief description of each. It should also show how the exhibits would be laid out within the pavilion.