Lessons in Black History – Jackie Ormes

ormesJackie Ormes—Born Zelda Mavin Jackson in 1911, Jackie Ormes was a popular cartoonist with a career that spanned three decades, and is considered to be the first African-American female cartoonist. Ormes launched her first comic strip in The Pittsburgh Courier in 1937. The strip ran for a year and starred Ormes’s character Torchy Brown. Ormes followed up Torchy Brown with the popular Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger in 1945, which ran for eleven years. During that time, a doll of Patty-Jo was released, which like the cartoon character was based in reality and not the tired stereotypes that usually defined both black characters in comics and toys. In 1950 Ormes re-launched the Torchy Brown character. All of Ormes’s comics were politically and socially aware, and went to great lengths to combat the common stereotypes used to depict black characters. Because of her outspoken political views, Ormes was investigated by the FBI during the Red Scare of the 1950s. Ormes retired from cartooning in 1956, but not before helping the change the way black characters were portrayed in comics.

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