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Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist by Nancy Goldstein


As graphic novels continue to gain respect in the literary world, there is a corresponding renaissance of interest in cartoonists of the past.

Jackie Ormes could draw like an angel.

Ormes was an African American cartoonist who drew panels for black newspapers during the 40’s and 50’s, when black men and women were returning from war to face continuing discrimination at home. Segregation continued to make life hard, and what little progress there was seemed to leave black women behind. This climate became the grist of compelling artistic material for Ormes, the first black female cartoonist to achieve national renown.

Way ahead of her time, this trail blazer raised the consciousness of fellow African Americans decades before anyone knew of Dr. King. Ormes drew stylish black female characters who advocated for civil rights and laughed at the House Un-American Activities Committee. Concerned about environmental justice when Al Gore was still a twinkle in his father’s eyes, Ormes created the cartoon Torchy in Heartbeats, depicting a handsome black doctor who saves a black community from environmental poisoning masterminded by a filthy, bigoted industrialist.

Born to a well-to-do family in Pittsburgh, Ormes was a member of Chicago’s black elite (she rubbed elbows with Eartha Kitt and Duke Ellington). A savvy businesswoman, Ormes also made a foray into early black doll production, replacing stereotyped Mammy dolls with elegant black dolls wearing designer wardrobes and sexy frocks.

Illustrated with more than 150 cartoons and photos, this book will appeal to fellow artists, feminists, African American history-lovers, anyone starting a business, and doll historians alike. Check catalog for availability.

- submitted by Jane @ Martin Luther King Library


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