Final Proposal

In 1909 following the end of his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt set out on a safari throughout Africa. Andrew Carnegie financed this safari, and the purpose of this safari was to hunt animals and collect their specimens. The collected specimens that they collected were to be donated to the Smithsonian Institution as well as the New York Museum of Natural History. Roosevelt brought numerous people such as R.J. Cunningham and Carl Akeley, the father of modern taxidermy on this journey. During this journey, Roosevelt killed and trapped over 11,397 animals, ranging from various insects to hippopotami and elephants. Although this journey was conducted in the name of science and research for exotic animals, it became quite the political and social event in America. The safari became a spectacle due to Roosevelt’s encounters with the African tribal members that most Americans had no prior knowledge of. This research paper will examine how Theodore Roosevelt’s African safari of 1909 both shaped the American view of Africa and eventually led to the exploitation of African wildlife.
While on safari, Roosevelt wrote many letters to his family back in America, in addition to a book about the journey called “African Game Trails”—both of these sources constitute as primary source documentation. The necessity for both primary and secondary sources is pertinent to this research, as it allows the average man or woman to understand how Americans felt about Africa and its wildlife before Roosevelt’s safari, as well as how his writings about it eventually shaped their opinions. One main primary source is Roosevelt’s book, African Game Trails: An Account of the African Wanderings of an American Hunter-Naturalist. This book recounts all of Roosevelt’s journeys while on this particular safari. African Game Trails gives a detailed first hand account of this safari, as well as his encounters with different African tribes and tribal members. This source is a valuable asset, as this book was one of the first widely published books that Americans had access to. This access allowed Americans the ability to read specific details about the safari, regarding both the people and animals that made up the parts of Africa that Roosevelt travelled through. Another key source would be the four short-length film clips that were taken during the safari. Each of these clips exhibits a different visual aspect of the safari Americans may not have been aware of, had their only source of information been African Game Trails. These short film clips also led many cinematographers to want to personally journey through Africa in order to document both animals and the lives of the tribal African people. A third primary source from this safari is also a book, entitled, In Brightest Africa. This book contains the zoologist, Carl Akeley’s writings on his personal account of the African safari of 1909. This source served as additional research on the African safari from a scientific researcher’s point of view, rather than a hunter’s point of view.
Many secondary sources have been written about the outcomes of Roosevelt’s African safari. One of these secondary sources is a book entitled, Film and the American Moral Vision of Nature, and is written by Ronald Tobias. This book is specifically dedicated to the safari, and shows how Americans viewed Africa and its wildlife after the safari reached wide scale publicity in America. An additional secondary source is Patricia O’Toole’s book, When Trumpets Call. This book gives an account of Roosevelt’s life following his presidency, including his experience on the safari. This source is valuable because it provides more information about the safari, as well as any feelings that the American public would have felt after Roosevelt returned from his safari. American daily newspaper, The New York Times, also published articles on Africa in the early 1900’s, including articles related to tribal African people. These articles refer to these tribal African people as “blood-drinkers” and “missing links”. These articles are important because they give background information on Americans’ knowledge and feelings regarding the people living in Africa through the media, which can be compared to any thoughts that either changed or stayed constant following Roosevelt’s safari.
Theodore Roosevelt’s safari of 1909 played a significant role in American history, as it was one of the first scientific ventures into Africa and one of the first ventures to be accompanied by many accessible first-hand accounts that provided Americans with a vision of Africa. This research paper will analyze how Theodore Roosevelt’s African safari of 1909 shaped the American view of Africa and eventually led to the exploitation of African wildlife.

Comments are closed.