Arts and Entertainment


Who was Ringling Brothers’ first black ringmaster?

In 1998, Johnathan Lee Iverson (1976–) signed on with Ringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey’s “The Greatest Show on Earth” as ringmaster of the Red Unit, one of the troupe’s two traveling shows. He was the first black—and the youngest ringmaster—in the history of the Ringling Brothers Circus. The son of a postal worker and a firefighter, Iverson was born in New York City. At age eleven he joined the Boys Choir of Harlem and won several awards. He also sang on the soap opera As the World Turns. He graduated from Hartt School of Music in Connecticut and won a role in “The Fireside Christmas Show” held in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. It was there that Iverson’s vocal talent captured the attention of the director of the show, who had also directed the circus. Iverson was encouraged to audition for the ringmaster’s role, winning it after the first rehearsal.


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