Sunday, June 5, 2011

Eko, Iko, & Clicko kidnapped and forced into Barnum Circus

Charles Rubenstein, Eko, Clicko, and Iko performing.  Submitted by Antoinette Harrell.
You may find it hard to fathom, but in 1899, two small lads, 6 year old Eko and 7 year old Iko,were kidnapped from their mother in Roanoke, Virginia after being scouted previously for the circus.  They crossed paths between the 1920's and 1930's with an African also forced into peonage.  They performed across the country for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus with Franz Taaibosch aka Clicko, "The Wild Dancing Bushman," who was kidnapped from Kimberely of Cape in South Africa by Morris "Paddy" Epstein.  Franz was paraded across England, France, Cuba, and the United States. 

This is our first discovery of an enslaved African brought to the United States and forced into peonage.  To learn more about Franz' story, see "Clicko"-  The story of Franz Taaibosch- yesterday's Caster Semenya.  This book is also available at Amazon:  
What type of society would nurture or find amusing the publicizing and the parading of the unfortunate individuals which where exploited by others for profit in so-called "Freak Shows?"  According to author, Robert Bogdan, freak shows were very popular in the United States between 1840 and 1940 and "freak hundreds of shows crisscrossed the United States exhibiting their  dwarfs, giants, Siamese twins, bearded ladies, savages, snake charmers, fire eaters, and others.  Why was this form of entertainment acceptable for hundreds of years.  The book is available on Amazon.  Freak Show:  Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement.  From Clicko, Eko, and Iko, we understand that these shows were internationally popular.

This form of public entertainment existed earlier in Europe. Unfortunately, this same type of entertainment became popular in the United States and many were engrossed with exhibitions which exploited African Americans as well.  See "P. T. Barnum and the Birth of the Freak Show:"

“P.T. Barnum and the Birth of the Freak Show,” The History Channel website, (accessed Jun 5, 2011).

In the next post, genealogist, Antoinette Harrell, will share a record that she discovered in the National Archives that will reveal more about Eko and Iko.  Check back soon.

More Links:

Clicko:  The Wild Dancing Bushman (University of Chicago Press)

Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Route Book, 1950

Eko and Iko, The Remarkable Life of Willie Muse


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  2. I wonder whether or not Eko and Iko the only two that were kidnapped and used like this?


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