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Jackie Ormes: The First African American Cartoonist

Jackie Ormes was born Zelda Mavin Jackson on August 1, 1911 in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area town of Monongahela, Pennsylvania. Ormes started in journalism as a proof reader for the Pittsburgh Courier, a weekly African-American newspaper that was published on Saturdays. 

Her 1937-38 Courier comic strip, Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem, starring Torchy Brown, was a humorous depiction of a Mississippi teen who found fame and fortune singing and dancing in the Cotton Club. Ormes became the first African-American woman to produce a syndicated comic strip.

People who knew her say that she modeled some cartoon characters after herself and other beautiful women of african descent appearing and speaking out in ways that defied stereotyped images of blacks in the mainstream media. Ormes comic strips made political statements and influenced the casual which eventuallyled to her being investigated by the FBI during the McCarthy era. 

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