Alligator skin was all the rage in the 19th and 20th century. Used to make bags, shoes, and other luxuries, white hunters risked tooth and nail… and arms and limbs to catch a gator for profit.
Until they didn’t want to risk their lives anymore. They’d rather risk ours.
White hunters used stolen Black infants of enslaved women to lure alligators to the surface. With a rope tied around their waists and necks, sobbing infants were left near the water’s edge. Only when snapped between the reptile’s powerful jaws did hunters often intervene.
The prize was the gator, after all. They didn’t care what happened to the baby.
Such terror extended beyond swampy wetlands. As a sub-headline read in a 1908 Washington Times article, “Zoo Specimens Coaxed to Summer Quarters by Plump Little Africans.”
That’s right. A keeper at a NY zoo had the gross idea to “bait the saurians with pickaninnies” due to reptiles’ alleged “fondness for the black man.”
Memorabilia captured this historical horror. Well into the Civil Rights era, postcards and parade float celebratorily depicted Black children being swallowed whole by crocs and gators, showcasing just how little Black life matters.
As we continue being hunted and senselessly murdered today, we can reflect on those children who too were senselessly killed and know such disregard for our lives hasn’t disappeared.