In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, human exhibits, more commonly known as ‘freak shows’ become a popular form of entertainment in Britain. Organisers relied on the shock value of novelty acts and drummed up publicity by circulating often exaggerated illustrations of human beings. Curiosity propelled people to pay for a glimpse of men, women and children who were presented as 'abnormal'. Popular exhibits included ‘dwarfs, giants, the bearded lady and conjoined twins.’ On occasion, Black men and women were part of these human curiosities and were presented to locals in Hull and East Yorkshire.
The popularity of human exhibitions extended locally into the early twentieth century with the arrival of the Brandsburton Pygmies in 1905. (Read about the Brandesburton Pygmies here).
Dr Lauren Darwin
African Stories Project Researcher.