The tale of the Black Birds

Courtesy of The New Miami Times

This picture shows African American babies who were colored and shaded in black sitting in a tree on almost each limb with fear in their eyes.

Black Birds is a derogatory photo printed by W.F. Bell that was used to mock African American children that fled to trees, as a defense mechanism because they were being used as Alligator Bait. The print was copyrighted in 1902 in Memphis, Tenn.

A popular stereotype that took place during the slavery period is the baiting of black babies being used for white Alligator hunters.

Alligator hunters would steal the slaves’ babies throughout the day when the parents weren’t around, according to the Miami New Times.

After the hunters would steal the newborn babies and toddlers they would take them down to the swamp and leave them in pens until nightfall.

Once the night approached the children were tied up with rope around their bodies and mouth, and were thrown into the swamp to lure alligators into an hunter’s traps.

In a matter of minutes, the alligators would clamp down on the children, mostly swallowing them or separating their limbs from their bodies, causing immediate death.

These Alligators weighed 600-800 pounds and were used for skin, ashtrays, food, and whatever else they could use alligator skin for and make a profit off of, according to a video on Reunion Black Family.

Due to white privilege and unequal civil rights at the time, no hunters were ever held responsible or prosecuted for the kidnapping and deaths of these black children.

The photograph, Black Birds, accompanied by many other derogatory photos of the black babies being used as gator bait can be found in the Komics, Koons, and Klan (KKK) Collection exhibit at the Meek-Eaton Black Archives Research Center and Museum located on Florida A&M University’s campus at 445 Gamble St.