Monday, December 8, 2008

New Orleans 1885: Colored People's Department.....

The decision to have a Colored People's Department at the New Orleans exposition was an idea originated by the Director-General, Major Edward A. Burke. The extensive displays, showing the progress made by African-Americans in the twenty-years since the Civil War, occupied the entire north gallery of the Government & States Building. Exhibits from thirty-five states & territories, with an additional section reserved for the New England states, filled the gallery. The states & territories represented included: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia. Large amounts of arts and crafts were displayed, as well as tools and other items of African-American manufacture. Advancements made in the areas of agriculture and the sciences were also shown. One of the more interesting features of the Colored People's Department was the extensive display of inventions, including an improved version of the cotton-gin. Alabama and Connecticut were praised as having the most complete displays, followed by those of the District of Columbia and Louisiana. Above a "Historical Chart of the Colored Race" a motto proclaimed: "We must unite, we must acquire wealth, we must educate, or we will perish". Despite the originality and completeness of the department, critics felt that the exhibits did not truly represent the advancements made by the African-American people in the United States.

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