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Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist

von Nancy Goldstein

Weitere Autoren: Jackie Ormes (Subject)

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7116287,725 (3.55)10
At a time of few opportunities for women in general and even fewer for African American women, Jackie Ormes (1911-85) blazed a trail as a popular cartoonist with the major black newspapers of the day. Her cartoon characters (including Torchy Brown, Candy, Patty-Jo, and Ginger) delighted readers and spawned other products, including an elegant doll with a stylish wardrobe and "Torchy Togs" paper dolls. Ormes was a member of Chicago's black elite, with a social circle that included the leading political figures and entertainers of the day. Her cartoons and comic strips provide an invaluable glimpse into American culture and history, with topics that include racial segregation, U.S. foreign policy, educational equality, the atom bomb, and environmental pollution, among other pressing issues of the times--and of today's world as well. This celebrated biography features a large sampling of Ormes's cartoons and comic strips, and a new preface.  … (mehr)

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Though the writing is repetitive, this is a fascinating book with reproductions of many of Ormes’ comic strips. She was a trailblazer in both the medium and the message of her art. ( )
  steller0707 | Sep 26, 2020 |
In Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist, Nancy Goldstein discusses the current dearth of scholarship on non-white comics creators, writing, “Largely missing from many of the scores of histories, retrospectives, and anthologies of comics and cartoons is work that documents and surveys the artistic production of African Americans” (pg. 2). Her work demonstrates how Jackie Ormes used the medium of newspaper comics to tell entertaining stories and debate social issues relevant to her readers. In addition to tackling issues including restrictive covenants, environmental pollution’s affects on the urban poor, and lynching, Goldstein argues, “Especially remarkable is the extent to which Ormes in Patty-Jo ’n’ Ginger boldly critiques American foreign and domestic policy during the cold war years,” including HUAC (pg. 4). Goldstein continues, “Regardless of their subject, many of Ormes’s cartoons and comics served to advance the cause of racial uplift, important to the [Pittsburgh] Courier’s editors and columnists, community leaders, and other African Americans” (pg. 4). Looking ahead to future scholarship, Goldstein writes, “An encyclopedic study of African American cartoonists needs to be undertaken. As the only black woman cartoonist of the time, Jackie Ormes seems an exceptionally fitting subject with whom to begin that effort” (pg. 5).

Linking Ormes’s art to the Chicago Renaissance of the Great Depression, Goldstein writes, “The topics that she chose for her cartoons reveal that Ormes had much in common with others who were using their art to address the many obstacles facing African Americans” (pg. 25). Ormes’s later political activism in the 1940s and 1950s brought her to the attention of the FBI, as many of the civil rights causes she supported were also supported by the Communist Party. According to Goldstein, Ormes’s “complete [FBI] dossier stands at 287 pages, surpassing baseball star Jackie Robinson’s 131-page brief, but it is considerably outstripped by Eleanor Roosevelt’s 3,371-page FBI file” (pg. 30). Goldstein continues, “In spite of the possibility that the FBI might use her art against her, and at considerable risk to her privacy, Ormes continued to express her outrage at foreign and domestic policy, racism, and class bigotry. Had the FBI scrutinized the cartoons, their strongly polemical messages alone may have spurred investigation” (pg. 31). As to the manner in which Ormes used her characters as extensions of herself, Goldstein writes, “Her [character Patty-Jo’s] comments, humor, and opinions are decidedly Ormes’s, expounding, for instance, on taxes, labor strikes, McCarthyism, and the vagaries of abstract art, as well as fashions and relations between the sexes” (pg. 40).

Discussing the black press, Goldstein writes, “Cartoons added wit and humor to the colorful mix of the black press in the middle of the twentieth century. But beyond their entertainment value, comics often carried messages of protest, satirizing unjust laws and social norms in ways that at times would have been risky for writers to take on in print” (pg. 54). Goldstein continues, “Comics in the black newspapers were remarkable in their energy, skill, timeliness, and original points of view that were conveyed by every character in the series – whether cowboy, detective, space invader, hero, villain, funny kid, or glamour girl” (pg. 61). In terms of content, Goldstein describes Ormes’s character Ginger, “She remains safely within the erotic boundaries of the time: desirable but never provocative, a charmer but not a seductress, viewed partly unclothed, yes, but only in private spaces like her dressing room or when accidentally slipping on Patty-Jo’s misplaced roller skate, with her skirt flying above her shapely legs. When she gazes directly at the viewer, her look is one of surprise at Patty-Jo’s words, never the sexy come-hither glances of other pinups” (pg. 83). Beyond the unique editorial space that Ormes found for mild sexuality in comparison to more mainstream (read: white) comic strips, Ormes’s use of herself as a model also offered a form of agency. In terms of dialogue, Goldstein writes, “Today some of Patty-Jo’s ongoing complaints and attacks on the status quo would likely be found on a newspaper’s editorial pages. She railed against racism, against restrictions on free speech, and against the confining nature of popular ads, fashions, or styles” (pg. 85).

Discussing the preservation of newspaper comics, Goldstein writes, “Original copies of the Courier’s comic section are nearly impossible to find today. In spite of the good intentions of our nation’s libraries, they must take the blame for many comics that were destroyed, including hard copies of Torchy in Heartbeats missing from the more than two hundred strips that Ormes drew during its four-year lifetime” (pg. 132). Part of this was due to a lack of space and the prioritization of material for microfilming. Goldstein turns to Ormes’s content, writing, “Ormes’s 1953-54 series introduces something entirely new to American comic strips, when Torchy tackles environmental racism… It is this activist story line with which Ormes is most frequently identified in anthologies and encyclopedias today” (pg. 137). In this way, she brought attention to the condition of south side Chicago neighborhoods where affluent communities dumped their waste in neighborhoods that were primarily home to people of color.

Goldstein concludes that Ormes’s “messages of strength, resourcefulness, and humor communicated strategies for people of color in their pursuit of the American dream. When the political associations that nourished Ormes’s opinions became risky – and no doubt unpopular with some people – her strength of character helped her remain steadfast in her activism and hold close her friendships” (pg. 180). Goldstein further cautions that a great deal of progress remains to happen, for while cartoonists like Ormes and others have recently gained scholarly attention, the field remains white-dominated and scholarship focusing on black cartoonists is still lacking. Goldstein uses this book for her own activism, “to call for old African American newspapers with comic strips and cartoons or original art to be offered to the Cartoon Research Library,” the Comic Art Collection at the Michigan State University Library, or the Center for Research Libraries in Chicago (pg. 181). ( )
  DarthDeverell | May 10, 2019 |
Diese Rezension wurde für LibraryThing Early Reviewers geschrieben.
This is a great book about a fascinating woman. It made me realize that I know less about the comics/cartooning industry than I thought. Of course this is more a biography of Jackie Ormes than it is of cartooning and while interesting, it is a bit dry for my tastes. I must admit to being more interesting in the industry than the life of the artists.
I would recommend this to anyone into history and wanting information on one of the female pioneers of cartooning. ( )
  battlinjack | Sep 19, 2009 |
Diese Rezension wurde für LibraryThing Early Reviewers geschrieben.
This book is a fascinating look at real pioneer. Not only did Jackie break a race barrier, but she worked in a nearly all male field. Wow. The book is well researched, well written, and contains loads of photos and samples of her work as a cartoonist. I highly recommend this book to folks who love biographies, people interested in the world of comics/comic strips, and anyone looking a good bit of social history. ( )
  inkdrinker | Aug 24, 2009 |
Diese Rezension wurde für LibraryThing Early Reviewers geschrieben.
Another lost review. I was fascinated by this book. Growing up in a WASPy, area I can't recall when I first saw an African-American in a comic strip. Fascinating to learn of the woman, her process and her background and what a loss that her work appeared in so few places. When I was finished reading, I lent it to our neighbor who may have seen some of the original strips and whose daughters have been studying sociology and related fields. Ultimately, it will be donated to the library at which I work, which has not yet expanded our collection to meet the changing service area. ( )
  meerka | Jul 24, 2009 |
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AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
Nancy GoldsteinHauptautoralle Ausgabenberechnet
Ormes, JackieSubjectCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
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At a time of few opportunities for women in general and even fewer for African American women, Jackie Ormes (1911-85) blazed a trail as a popular cartoonist with the major black newspapers of the day. Her cartoon characters (including Torchy Brown, Candy, Patty-Jo, and Ginger) delighted readers and spawned other products, including an elegant doll with a stylish wardrobe and "Torchy Togs" paper dolls. Ormes was a member of Chicago's black elite, with a social circle that included the leading political figures and entertainers of the day. Her cartoons and comic strips provide an invaluable glimpse into American culture and history, with topics that include racial segregation, U.S. foreign policy, educational equality, the atom bomb, and environmental pollution, among other pressing issues of the times--and of today's world as well. This celebrated biography features a large sampling of Ormes's cartoons and comic strips, and a new preface.  

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