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Michael Bieze

artist, was born in Colquitt County, Georgia, son of John Henry Adams, a former slave and preacher in the Methodist Church, and Mittie Rouse. Many questions surround Adams's early life. While he reported in an Atlanta Constitution article (23 June 1902) that he came from a humble background, his father served parishes throughout Georgia. According to the History of the American Negro and His Institutions (1917), Adams Sr. was a man of accomplishment, leading black Georgians in a colony in Liberia for two years and receiving two honorary doctorates, from Bethany College and Morris Brown University. Educated in Atlanta schools, Adams claimed in the Atlanta Constitution article to have traveled to Philadelphia in the late 1890s to take art classes at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry (later Drexel University). Drexel, established in 1891 opened its doors to a diverse student ...


Robyn McGee

cartoonist and creator of the “Curtis” comic strip, was born in Wake Forest, North Carolina, to Henry Billingsley and Laura Dunn Billingsley. The youngest of three children, Billingsley credits his sister Maxine and, particularly, his older brother Richard with inspiring many of the plots and themes of the popular comic strip. Billingsley began drawing at age eight as a way of competing with his brother's renderings of portraits, still lives and landscapes. Ray remembers that Richard received much praise from adults for his creations. When Ray tried to draw like his brother, he did not garner the same kind of favorable response, so he decided to switch to cartooning instead.

After the Billingsley family moved to Harlem, twelve‐year old Ray was discovered by an editor of Kids magazine while drawing during a class visit to the Presbyterian Hospital in New York. His first assignment at Kids was to ...


Kristal Brent Zook

cartoonist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of three children of Brumsic Brandon Jr., a pioneering black cartoonist and creator of the long-running comic strip Luther, which debuted in the late 1960s and was syndicated by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate in 1971.

As a young girl growing up in New Cassel, Long Island, Brandon often assisted her father with his work. Later she studied illustration in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University, but left six credits short of completing her degree. At age twenty-four Brandon created her own comic strip called Where I'm Coming From, which featured the faces of a diverse group of nine African American women friends.

Although her characters perspectives were quintessentially African American the cartoonist stressed that the voices were universal reflections on life and love The characters were talking heads without bodies Women are too ...


Vincent F. A. Golphin

artist and creator of Luther, one of the first comic strips with African American characters to be widely published in U.S. newspapers, was born in Washington, D.C., two blocks north of Union Station, then the national capital's major transportation center. Brumsic Brandon Sr. worked there as a railway porter. Brandon Jr.'s mother, the former Pearl Brooks, was a stock clerk and maid at the Kann's Department Store.

At Charles Young Platoon Elementary School, Brandon was a high achiever who loved to draw, which inspired him to pursue art as a career. In 1942, when he entered Armstrong Technical High School, he took nearly every painting, sketching, and sculpture course. Also, at the urging of teachers, he added courses in drafting, which later made him more employable. Brandon graduated in February 1945 intent on becoming a comic strip artist but instead he became one of the first African ...


Pamela Lee Gray

cartoonist, author, artist, and graphic illustrator, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Elmer Cary Campbell, a high school administrator, and Elizabeth Simms, a painter and homemaker. Campbell moved to Chicago to live with an aunt and to take advanced art classes at Elmwood High School. In 1923, while a student there, he won a national contest for an editorial cartoon about Armistice Day. After graduation, Campbell attended the Lewis Institute and the University of Chicago, where he worked at The Phoenix a humor magazine He also worked as a post office messenger and railroad car waiter Campbell was accepted to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and completed three years of study there before returning to St Louis to work briefly at Triad Studios a commercial art studio He then moved to Harlem to live with an aunt and attend the Art Students League where ...


Lorin Nails-Smoote

political and editorial cartoonist, was born Chesterfield Commodore in Racine, Wisconsin, the fourth of five children of Elizabeth “Bessie” Fite and Pascal “Pat” Commodore, a Creole laborer and model maker from Louisiana. One Commodore ancestor, Peter D. Thomas of Racine, a former slave, was the first elected black official in Wisconsin.

The family resided with Bessie Commodore's mother, Della, in her Racine boarding house until 1923 when the three girls and their parents moved to Chicago where Pat could pursue better employment opportunities. Chester, as he was known, remained with his grandmother and his older brother until 1927 when he joined his parents.

Commodore grew up in a culturally stimulating environment Because of its convenient proximity to Chicago and Milwaukee and because black entertainers in pre integration years were not allowed above the first floor of the Chicago and Milwaukee hotels where they appeared Della Fite s ...


Christine G. McKay

cartoonist, was born Oliver Wendell Harrington in New York City, the son of Herbert Harrington, a porter, and Euzenie Turat. His father came to New York from North Carolina in the early 1900s when many African Americans were seeking greater opportunities in the North. His mother had immigrated to America, arriving from Austria-Hungary in 1907, to join her half sister. Ollie Harrington grew up in a multiethnic neighborhood in the South Bronx and attended public schools. He recalled a home life burdened by the stresses of his parents' interracial marriage and the financial struggles of raising five children. From an early age, he drew cartoons to ease those tensions.

In 1927 Harrington enrolled at Textile High School in Manhattan He was voted best artist in his class and started a club whose members studied popular newspaper cartoonists Exposure to the work of Art Young Denys ...


Alonford James Robinson

Known to friends as Ollie, Oliver Wendell Harrington was born in Valhalla, New York, the eldest of Herbert Harrington and Eugenia Tarat's five children. He graduated from high school in 1929 and moved to New York City during the Harlem Renaissance.

Harrington attended the National Academy of Design, where he studied painting and drawing. By 1932 his comic strips were being featured in black newspapers, including the Pittsburgh Courier, New York Amsterdam News, and Baltimore Afro-American. Bootsie, a cartoon character who mimicked the styles and trends in the urban black community and who would become Harrington's most famous creation, first appeared in a comic strip called “Dark Laughter.” In 1958 a collection of Bootsie comic strips was published as Bootsie and Others.

In 1940 Harrington received his bachelor s in fine arts degree from the Yale University School of Fine Arts Two ...


Eric Bennett

George Herriman was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1880, but his family soon moved to California, perhaps because his light-skinned Creole parents hoped to pass as white and begin a new life there. Indeed, Herriman himself obscured his African origins during his lifetime, leading to speculation that he was either Greek or French. As a teenager Herriman contributed drawings to local newspapers. In his early twenties he moved to New York, New York and freelanced until white newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst saw his cartoons and hired him for the New York Evening Journal.

During the first decade of the twentieth century, Herriman explored a number of characters and settings before developing Krazy Kat. The strip's main characters emerged from a cat and mouse he drew in the margins of his first success, The Family Upstairs. The Krazy Kat strip gained its independence ...


Thomas M. Inge

cartoonist, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of George Herriman Jr., a tailor, and Clara Morel. There is uncertainty about Herriman's ethnic background. His birth certificate identified him as “Colored,” his parents were listed in the 1880 New Orleans federal census as “Mulatto,” but his death certificate noted that he was “Caucasian.” During his lifetime, friends often thought he was Greek or French because of his Adonis-like appearance, and he has been called a “Creole.” The family moved to Los Angeles when Herriman was a child, and his father opened a barbershop and then a bakery.

Herriman attended St. Vincent's College, a Roman Catholic secondary school for boys. When he finished school in 1897 he followed his artistic bent and began to contribute illustrations to the Los Angeles Herald After the turn of the century he moved to New York City and began to ...


Timothy L. Jackson

cartoonist and illustrator, was born Jay Paul Jackson in Oberlin, Ohio. He was the fourth child and only son of Nellie Curry and Franklin R. Jackson. Jay Jackson tried his hand at a variety of trades before discovering his aptitude for cartooning. At the age of thirteen he joined the workforce, pounding railway spikes for a railroad company located just outside of Columbus, Ohio. He then worked as a steelworker in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and had a brief career as a boxer while Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, from 1925 to 1926. During his time at Wesleyan, an instructor redirected his interests toward the field of advertising.

At the age of nineteen, Jackson wed his first wife, Adeline C. Smith (?–1924 and started a successful sign painting business However this success cost him his health Jackson suffered a severe case of lead poisoning caused by ...


Charles Pete Banner-Haley

cartoonist, was born Aaron Vincent McGruder in Chicago, the son of Bill McGruder, an employee with the National Safety Transportation Board, and Elaine (maiden name not known), a homemaker. When McGruder was six years old the family moved to the planned community of Columbia, Maryland. Created by the Rouse Company in the late 1960s, Columbia was envisioned as an integrationist, post–civil rights utopia.The young McGruder attended a Jesuit school outside of Columbia from seventh to ninth grade. It was, as he said in a New Yorker profile, “a very strict, very, very white Jesuit school.” As oppressive as the atmosphere was, it was while at this school that McGruder discovered the humor of Monty Python. When he transferred to public school in the tenth grade, he found himself mostly in the company of other black students. He became a fan of Star Wars kung fu ...


Melanie E. L. Bush

Since its creation by Aaron McGruder (b. 29 May 1974), The Boondocks has filled mailbags of newspaper editors across the country with congratulatory and condemning letters. Taking on racial injustice and political matters, McGruder's main character, the “radical scholar” Huey, Huey's brother, the “gangsta-rap enthusiast” Riley Freeman, and Huey's friend, the Brooklyn-born “hip hop devotee” Caesar, critique the hypocrisy and contradictions of capitalist culture, white supremacy, and the current social order from the perspective of black youth. This satire deals with politicians, artists, athletes, and media stars (of all races) with bold punch lines and a jarring frankness that few cartoonists attempt.

Introduced on the Hitlist Online in 1996 and the Diamondback student newspaper at the University of Maryland in 1997 (where McGruder earned a degree in African American studies), the comic then appeared in the Source magazine. This provocative strip was syndicated in 1999 by ...


Timothy L. Jackson

editorial cartoonist and illustrator, was born Ahmed Samuel Milai in Washington, D.C.

During the 1930s Milai served as illustrator of Joel Augustus Rogers's black history comic titled Your History. Rogers's comic brouge4820ht readers of the black press information about the remarkable achievements of individuals throughout the African diaspora, which was conspicuously absent from elementary school history books across America. The fully illustrated Your History comic was presented in a style similar to that of the popular Ripley's Believe it or Not! feature. Although Milai worked in association with the Pittsburgh Courier, Your History also appeared in a number of other black press publications nationally.

On 31 July 1937 the Pittsburgh Courier debuted Milai's comic domestic family strip titled Bucky This weekly comic strip centered on an adolescent boy and his interaction with his parents schoolmates and the obligatory assortment of tough guys and bullies Over the ...


Nancy Goldstein

cartoonist, was born Zelda Mavin Jackson in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the younger daughter of Mary Brown Jackson, homemaker, and William Winfield Jackson, printer and printing business owner. “Jackie,” the name she would be known for, came from Jackson, her maiden name. Jackie Ormes was the first African American woman cartoonist. She created four different cartoon series, all in African American weekly newspapers, mostly in the late 1940s and early 1950s: Torchy Brown in “Dixie to Harlem” from 1 May 1937 to 30 April 1938 in the Pittsburgh Courier; Candy from 24 March 1945 to 21 July 1945 in the Chicago Defender; Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger from 1 September 1945 to 22 September 1956 in the Pittsburgh Courier; Torchy in Heartbeats from 19 August 1950 to 18 September 1954 in the Pittsburgh Courier Ormes grew up in a middle class mixed race neighborhood in Monongahela Pennsylvania where she once ...


Alfred L. Brophy

cartoonist, was born in Blevins, Arkansas, the first daughter of Julia Miller, a homemaker, and Lemuel Dixon, a preacher. A few years later, her parents separated and Julia Miller moved to St. Louis. After living for a short time with her maternal grandmother, Daisy was sent to live with her grandmother's sister-in-law, Josephine Hurst and her husband, Peter, in Little Rock, Arkansas. When she was nineteen years old, Daisy met Jack Scott, a former middleweight boxer, and they were married on 2 May 1917. The couple moved from Little Rock to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where they lived in Greenwood, the city's African American section. The 1920 census listed Daisy as a cartoonist and her husband as a janitor. They had twelve children: Judith, Juanita, Julius, Eloise, Panchita, Sidney, Pauline, Guy, Altamese, Jonetta, Benjamin, and Toussaint.

Scott worked as a cartoonist for ...


Charles Rosenberg

cartoonist who originated the widely syndicated Wee Pals comic strip, was born Morris N. Turner in Oakland, California, the son of James E. Turner, a Pullman porter, and Nora C. Spears Turner. He had three older brothers, Edward, Marion, and Joseph, and grew up in west Oakland near Poplar Street, between 8th and 11th, then near 5th and Wood streets, at that time a neighborhood of Portuguese, African American, Italian, and Irish families.

Turner attended Lowell Junior High School, then went to McClymonds High School for two years, until his family moved to nearby Berkeley, California. Graduating from Berkeley High in 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force in February 1943, serving in the 477th Bomber Group, 99th Pursuit Squadron, which was activated in January 1944 but was never sent into action Turner did a number of art related projects on assignment to Special Services ...



Sean Jacobs

South African political cartoonist, satirist, and animator, was born Jonathan Shapiro in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1958. His father, Gershon Shapiro, was a lawyer, and his mother, Gaby, a prominent antiapartheid political activist. Gershon Shapiro was a descendant of Lithuanian Jews who had immigrated to South Africa at the end of the nineteenth century, fleeing Russian anti-Semitism. Gaby Shapiro was born in 1930 in Berlin, Germany. Her family fled to London in 1937 to escape the Nazi Holocaust of Jews on continental Europe. Zapiro’s parents met and married while they were students at the London School of Economics in 1956 before moving to South Africa Zapiro is one of four children he has one brother and two sisters Zapiro grew up in Rondebosch a suburb of Cape Town where he also completed his elementary and high school education A high school classmate gave him the nickname Zapiro He ...