Pioneering cartoonist Zelda “Jackie” Ormes. Born to a well-to-do family in Pittsburgh in 1911, Ormes created popular cartoon and comics series like Torchy Brown and Candy, that appeared in African American newspapers like the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender from 1937 to 1956. Her cartoon Patty-Jo ‘n Ginger inspired the creation of the Patty-Jo doll, an upscale, brown-skinned doll that was a direct contrast to the black dolls of the day that depicted black children as raggedy “picaninnies.” Jackie Ormes herself said, “No more… Sambos… Just KIDS!“
I encourage you to pick up Nancy Goldstein’s wonderful book, Jackie Ormes: The First African-American Woman Cartoonist, to learn even more about Ms. Ormes. According to Ms. Goldstein, people who knew Jackie Ormes say that she modeled some of her characters after herself, beautifully dressed and outspoken about issues of the day. Ms. Ormes was one of many artists who were investigated by the House of Un-American activities during the McCarthy era. She also led a very full, interesting social life in Chicago and was friendly with celebrities like Eartha Kitt and Duke Ellington. She died in 1985.