The African Dodger

Carnival clown dunking booths rooted in white supremacy

Dale M. Brumfield
12 min readDec 9, 2019

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WARNING: This story is an updated, revised and corrected version of a previous story. Racist and bigoted language, racial slurs, race violence prevalent.

A September, 2019, New York Times story headlined “The Last of the Dunk Tank Clowns” pronounces the gasping demise of the dunking booth, a one-time staple of carnivals and state fairs across the United States. In it, fair-goers paid a couple dollars to hurl three baseballs at a dinner plate-size target that would drop an insult-spewing clown into a tank of lukewarm water.

This attraction is now virtually obsolete. Outdoor Amusement Business Association president Greg Chiecko was quoted as claiming he polled his members about dunk tank clowns and that “most say they don’t know of any that still exist today.”

Maria Calico, president of the International Association of Fairs & Expositions, claimed she has seen an insult clown only “once or twice in the last decade.”

In today’s progressive society, no one wants be disrespected about their hair, clothing or weight as an inducement to drop a trash-talking Bozo into the tank. Recognizing this trend years ago, the clowns’ humor became much tamer, and some of the few games remaining even displayed disclaimers that fair-goers were about to encounter “satire humor” or an “insult zone,” and that the management was “not responsible for insults made by the clown.”

The clown dunking booth’s history, however, is far more savagely dark than canned insults foiled by simple political correctness. It is in fact rooted in a most vicious form of white supremacy.

The African Dodger

In 1881 an enterprising carnival promoter in Indiana got the idea to chain a monkey to a table and invite people to pay a couple pennies to try to strike the primate with three balls. The game, however, was a failure, as there seemed to be almost universal indignation at the use of “an innocent creature” for such blood-sport.

“For any man to put an animal in this position, it is a shame and an outrage,” howled the September 23 Indiana Herald. “It is nothing less than a severe case of cruelty to animals, and as such should be…

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Dale M. Brumfield

Anti-death penalty advocate, cultural archaeologist, “American Grotesk” historyteller and author of 12 books. More at www.dalebrumfield.net.