Before becoming the Ethiopian Clowns, there is evidence indicating that the team was formed in Miami, Florida, in 1935 or 1936 by Hunter Campbell and bootlegger Johnny Pierce, and was known as the Miami Giants. Soon enough the team became an independent barnstorming club, changing its name to the Ethiopian Clowns. Syd Pollock was instrumental in promoting and popularizing the Clowns and developed them into a nationally-known combination of show business and baseball that earned them the designation as the Harlem Globetrotters of baseball.
In 1943, the team was relocated to Cincinnati, where they became the Cincinnati Clowns. That same year they joined the Negro American League, beginning a 12-year membership in the circuit before withdrawing following the 1954 season. The team operated between Cincinnati and Indianapolis in 1944 and 1945 before officially moving to Indianapolis in 1946, playing as the Indianapolis Clowns for the rest of their existence.
The team won the league championship in 1950.
While still fielding a legitimate team, the Clowns also toured with several members known for comic acts — sort of a baseball version of the Harlem Globetrotters, including Joe "Prince" Henry. As the Negro leagues declined in the late 1940s after the integration of Major League Baseball, the Clowns continued operations on barnstorming tours into the 1960s.
By 1966 the Indianapolis Clowns were the last Negro league team still playing. The Clowns continued to play exhibition games into the 1980s, but as a humorous sideshow rather than a competitive sport. After many years of operation as a barnstorming team, the Clowns finally disbanded in 1989