Ota Benga's life was tragic from early on. He was a member of the Mbuti people who lived in the area then known as the Belgian Congo. Forces under the control of King Leopold of Belgium killed Benga's wife and two children during a massacre – part of the drive to control rubber trees in the region. Benga escaped death because he was on a hunting trip when the slaughter occurred.
Benga was later captured by slavers, then sold to missionary Samuel Verner for a bolt of cloth and a pound of salt. Verner had been contracted by the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (otherwise known as Saint Louis World's Fair) to find some pygmies for the fair. Four other Batwa or pygmy people and five non-pygmies eventually agreed to come on the trip.
After the World's Fair, Benga was displayed at the Museum of Natural History in New York and the Bronx Zoo. Read his story at Environmental Graffiti. Link