Travel back in time to when White adults and their children used to attend carnival, fairs and circuses across the United States to play a game called “Hit the N****R Baby! The game took place in the United States during the late 19th Century until around the mid 1940s. It was one of the White Americans most favorite pastime games, also known as “African Dodger, or “Hit the Coon.”
The object of the game was to hit the target with a ball-with one of your three throws and guess what? You win a prize. It sounds sort of like a normal carnival game; that is until you here about the targets. The targets were real live human “negro” beings.
According to the Ferris In St. Louis in 1913, it was reported that carnival organizers were “unable for hours today to secure an ‘African Dodger’ who would allow baseballs to be thrown at his cranium at the usual rate of three for 5 cents;” the reason was that future Hall of Fame fastball pitcher Walter Johnson was rumored to be at the fair. In 1904 in New York, the Meriden Daily Journal reported how a dodger was smashed in the nose by a professional baseball player. The Journal reported that Albert Johnson dodged “fifty or sixty cents” worth of balls thrown by “Cannon Ball” Gillen of the Clifton Athletic club.” It was a dangerous game and many Black people were seriously hurt. According to Ferris In St. Louis this in an advertisement for an African Dodger.
Advertisement for Providence News on September 11, 1924
Wants African Dodger to Face Balls at Club Fair
“Do you want to earn a few precious dollars on the evening of September 19 and 20?
If you do and if you are not at all particular as to what happens to your head why apply at Room 10 in the building at 144 Pine street. Ask for Charlie and tell him you “saw his ad in the paper”. Charlie is looking for a lion-hearted and hard-headed young man who will act as an African dodger at the big carnival to be staged by the West Barrington Community Club. The reward? That is a little matter that you can adjust with Charlie. He will treat you fairly and will see that you reach the Rhode Island Hospital safely in the event that that [sic] one of the baseballs comes in contact with your head.
We beg your pardon for not detailing the duties of an African dodger. He just puts his head through a hole in a big piece of canvass and permits the aforesaid head to be used as a target by young men who toss baseballs.
One day last week an African dodger was killed in Elizabeth, N.J., and the week before a dodger was killed in Hackensack, but don’t permit these deaths to influence you.
The African Dodger game was widespread in American society, in every part of the country. If you could not make it to the fair, you could purchase for $.69 an African Dodger table game, which featured a caricatured black face poking through a canvas reading “Hit the Dodger! Knock Him Out! Every Time You Hit Sambo The Bell Rings.”
Today there are a lot of games at carnivals that have some similarity to this game. Although, the humans are no longer used for the game the game is still played. Just now with painted faces. Another interesting fact is that one of the most popular attractions at the Zoos during this time was the “Negro Village.”