Arts and Entertainment


What was the first all-black circus act in America?

In 1968, promoter Irving Field signed up the King Charles Troupe, the first all-black circus act in America. The troupe of basketball-playing unicycle riders, discovered auditioning on the sidewalk outside Madison Square Garden, also performed on television, appearing on such shows as The Tonight Show. Field introduced the troupe to the circus, billing them as “the first all-black circus act in America.” Jerry King, architect of the act, first saw a unicycle act used in a small circus in Florida in 1916. Forty-two years later he taught his son, Charles King, and others in their Bronx, New York, neighborhood to ride the unicycle. To this the young riders added their basketball skills, created a special act, and became something like the Harlem Globetrotters on wheels. Charles King became the group’s leader.


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