Morton's Circus

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The Roaring ‘20s were among the hardest times for Sarasota’s African American community. The Ku Klux Klan was often a visible presence here, with cross burnings and other forms of intimidation, both physical and psychological. Sarasota’s branch of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Invisible Empire, was Klan Number 72.

Always looking for ways to legitimize itself – “No honest right thinking white American can conscientiously oppose the Knights”- they brought a Klan circus to Sarasota for the week of October 18-23, 1926, with “the best acts obtainable.”

In conjunction with the circus (actually the Bob Morton Circus under the auspices of the Klan) a Miss Sarasota was to be chosen from whichever of the contestants sold the most circus tickets. The winner would receive “gifts of an expensive nature…beautiful to behold.”

The fact that the Klan circus was so well received underscored the sentiment of the times. In conjunction with the circus, 354 men and 82 women, local Klan members, marched down Main Street in their white Klan outfits, watched by thousands who “greeted them with a cheery hail from friends who lined the way.”

The parade was preceded by two fiery crosses that “stood out in the tropical sky clearly and distinctly,” with the flag carried by the women members of the Klan auxiliary.

It is not difficult to surmise the chilling effect on the African American community. The circus had been staged to raise funds to build a Klavern (Klan headquarters), which would “exceed anything of its kind south of Atlanta.” - by Jeff LaHurd, Sarasota History Alive



Luther Rosebaro

Luther was born and raised in Michigan, but has been in Florida since 1989. He never went to art school. He learning how to draw by looking, and asking. "I've loved to draw since I was a kid, couldn't afford paints, but always had a pencil, a #2 and a sheet of paper, later color. Color pencils taught me about color blending, now, painting, it all has just transformed. I have to add, Denise Kowal, the Chalk Festival, I love, I've been helped and inspired, to step out of the box. A person, an organization that are truly special to me, and one day we will all prosper because of it. No borders, no boundaries. Lastly, Sarasota, my home for decades, I didn't realize the length and breath of the trials and tribulations for people like me, having grown up in the North. But things are a changing, with folks like Denise, and myself. Lets make the change for the best! The story of black folks in Sarasota, their hard work to build this city, with no recognition, but I felt I would do my part. My part to bring history to the present and the future. Because it took all of us to do so, so lets give credit to where credit is do."