‘Hit the Nigg*r Baby’ – How African-Americans Were Used as Human Targets in the 1880s

The African Dodger, also known as the “hit the Nigg*r baby” was a racist carnival game that was popular in the United States in the late 19th century. The African Dodger was played at fairs, carnivals, and other public events, and it was designed to demean and insult African Americans.

Hit the nigger baby

Background

In 1881, a carnival promoter in Indiana got the idea to chain a monkey to a table and invite people to pay a token and then try to strike the primate with three balls. However, the game was not well received because many people thought it was barbaric to use an innocent creature as target practice for the sport.

A local newspaper “Indiana Herald” called it a shame and an outrage, “It is nothing less than a severe case of cruelty to animals, and as such should be prohibited by the management of the grounds.

After the criticisms from the public, the promoter reinvented the game by replacing the monkey with an unemployed black man. He called his new game “The African Dodger,” and it immediately became a national sensation.

The African Dodger

In the African dodger game, an African-American man would stick his head through a curtain stretched between two poles, and attempt to dodge objects, such as eggs, baseballs, fruits and sometimes stones, thrown at him by players.

Hit the Nigger Baby' – How African-Americans Were Used as Human Targets in Circuses in the 1880s

The purpose of the game was to hit the head of the black man with a ball and win a prize.

“Hit the nigg*r in the head, get a good ten cent seegar,” “Three balls for a dime, folks. Try your skill and accuracy. Hit the nigger baby on the head get a handsome cane and pennant”

The above chant calling on people to try their luck at the game was common at carnivals, fairs, and circuses across the United States throughout the 1880s until the mid 1940s.

The blacks used as targets often suffered serious injuries that sometimes required hospitalization.

While this was happening, many sociologists, scientists and politicians at the time went out of their way to justify the game by affirming the general public that blacks didn’t mind such shame or brutality and that Africans were “less evolved,” and had “heavy and massive craniums” that resisted the objects thrown at their heads.

The 1880s game that used African-Americans as Human Targets in Circuses in the 1880s

The Dodgers made headlines when they were seriously and horrifically injured-otherwise, they were nameless victims.

In 1904 in New York, the Meriden Daily Journal reported how a dodger was smashed in the nose by a professional baseball player that left him unconscious. The article, which was written as a play-by-play commentary on the incident, concluded with the report that it “will probably be necessary to amputate the nose in order to save Johnson’s life

The African Dodger game also known as Hit the Nigger baby

There was another report of one Walter Smith in Connecticut who was hit with such force that several of his teeth were knocked out, and the ball was locked so securely within the negro’s mouth that it had to be cut to pieces before it could be removed.

Hit the Nigger Baby

Despite the barbarity and brutality, the African Dodger game was widespread in every part of the United States. If you could not make it to the fair, you could purchase an African Dodger table game which featured a caricatured black face poking through a canvas for $.69.

The African dodger game was so popular that it was depicted in comic strips and cartoons, including Donald Duck and Popeye.

The African Dodger started losing its appeal sometime around the early 1920s; carnival and circus organizers at the time also felt that the African Dodger hame had become “too old and commonplace” so they replaced it with a less dangerous game “the African dip” in which blacks would fall into a tank of water when a ball strikes a target.

Origin of The african dodger aka hit the nigger baby
The African dip now goes by the name Dunk Tank and it’s an attraction mainly found at fundraisers, and parties.

The “African Dodger” and “African dip” was eventually banned in all parts of the United States, as attitudes towards African Americans began to change and racial discrimination became less acceptable. However, the legacy of this racist game lives on, as it serves as a reminder of the deep-seated prejudices and stereotypes that existed towards African Americans in the past.

Sources

https://books.google.com.ng/books?id=-N0DAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA693&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

The black dodger. (1913, September 19). The Wayne County Democrat, p. 3. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=wXCFTzxW9NYC&dat;=19130919&printsec;=frontpage&hl;=en

Ball hits African Dodger. (1916, July 22). The Gazette Times, p. 1. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=J-ba04ztB30C&dat;=19160722&printsec;=frontpage&hl;=en

Mr Madu
Mr Madu
Mr Madu is a freelance writer, a lover of Africa and a frequent hiker who loves long, vigorous walks, usually on hills or mountains.

4 COMMENTS

  1. This is only one of many disgusting things that white people have done to entertain themselves at the expense of black people. The Native Americans had it right when they refer to whites as blue eyed devils. They were then and are now the most barbaric race known to man. They are disgusting

  2. Thanks for keeping alive the abiding legacy of white supremacy. Hurting a primate was rightly seen as cruel, uncivilized, primitive etc but justifiable for a fellow human who has black complexion.

  3. That first picture appears to be way later than 19th century? Boys appear in striped tshirts and khaki pants? Looks late 1940’s or 50’s?
    Deplorable but wouldn’t shock me at all…

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