ROMANI (or ROMA) are a people with origins in northern India, and later, Europe, historically known for being a nomadic itinerant group. They began settling on Cleveland's near west side in the 1880s, and within 40 years there were at least 1,000 living in the OHIO CITY neighborhood. Among the Romani reported living in Cleveland were Romani musicians, nomadic bands who moved throughout the city, and a number who worked as fortunetellers. In 1946, famed Romani JAZZ guitarist Django Reinhardt made his US debut performance in Cleveland, opening for Duke Ellington at PUBLIC AUDITORIUM's Music Hall.

Within Cleveland, the Romani maintained a governmental system consisting of tribal rulers—usually the oldest and wisest men. The tribal name usually derived from the last name of the ruler. In the early 1980s, Frank Miller was considered king of the Cleveland Roma. The exotic stereotype of the "nomadic Gypsy" has often disguised the fact that fewer and fewer Romani remained migratory by the beginning of the 21st century. Cleveland's Romani population dwindled down to a few hundred by the 1970s. Some moved to nearby West Side suburbs, while hundreds more chose to go to larger cities, such as New York or Chicago.


Last updated: 5/16/2023

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