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COMIC LEGEND: The first black doll was produced by a comic strip artist.
While I would not say that it confuses me, per se, because I certainly understand WHY people do it, it still sort of disappoints me when you see exaggerated claims regarding the lives of people who were ALREADY extraordinary people.
Like, for instance, Jackie Ormes, who is generally regarded as the first successful African-American female cartoonist.
Ormes produced a series of strips over her long and impressive career. She first began in 1937 with a strip in the Pittsburgh Courier (a prominent African-American newspaper of the time) called Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem about a young woman trying to make it as a singer…
After she moved to Chicago in the 1940s, she began in the Chicago Defender (one of the MOST prominent African-American newspapers of the time) what is probably her most popular strip, Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger, about two sisters where the older one is pretty but effectively mute while the younger one is clever and bold…
Later, when the Courier went to an all-color comic strip section, Ormes re-did Torchy Brown…
She even did fashion doll strips!
Awesome stuff, right?
However, it is ANOTHER awesome thing that she did that Ormes is often erroneously credited for doing a bit more than she ACTUALLY did.
In 1947, Ormes, sick of the paltry options available to young African-American girls with regards to dolls, produced a doll based on her Patty Jo character…
These dolls stood out in the market as being basically just like the white dolls out there, only featuring a black girl. They are highly sought after collectibles today.
However, quite often Ormes is then credited with creating the FIRST black doll (not counting racist Sambo depictions or stuff like that) and that’s clearly not the case, as black dolls had been offered in the United State since at least the early 1920s. Here’s an ad from 1921…
Ormes was an extraordinary woman, but she was not also the creator of the first “black doll.”
Thanks to Caitlin McGurk and the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library for the Ormes comic strip drawings. Check out this piece by McGurk for even MORE sample strips!
On the next page, what would have happened to the Flash if Crisis on Infinite Earths never happened?
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