Jackie Ormes: First Female African-American Cartoonist

Thesis Statement: Jackie Ormes, the first female African-American cartoonist, battled sexual assault and accurately portrayed African-Americans through her comics, thereby breaking barriers in civil and women's rights.


Background Information

Civil Rights

Women's Rights



Process Paper

Early Life

Zelda Mavin Jackson, also known as Jackie Ormes, was born on August 11, 1911. Although she was born in Pittsburgh, she lived most of her childhood in Monongahela, Pennsylvania. Shortly after the death of her biological Father when she was six, Ormes and her Mother, Mary Brown Jackson, and her older sister, Dolores, moved along the Monongahela River to live with Ormes’s Step-father, Porter M. Simmons. Contrary to how a majority of the black community lived, Jackie and her family lived a secure life in a predominantly white, middle-class neighborhood. ​​​​​​​

Map of Monongahela City, Pennsylvania, 1902. Source: Library of Congress.

Beginning Her Art Career Early

From a young age, Jackie Ormes was a gifted artist, constantly drawing on any paper she could find and even making artistic carvings out of bars of soap. When she was a senior at Monongahela High School, she used her artistic abilities to become the art director of her high school yearbook, The Flame. In this 1930 yearbook, Ormes's hand-drawn caricatures of her classmates and teachers, accompanied by her own witty captions, are featured on pages sixty-eight and sixty-nine. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​Source: The Flame, 1930, Pg.18

​​​​​​​Source: The Flame, 1930, Pgs.68-69

Source: The Flame, yearbook, 1930.

Ormes became a reporter at the Pittsburgh Courier, an African-American newspaper. She would often report action-packed events such as boxing matches, arrests, and court cases, which shaped her love of action and would influence her comic ideas in the future.

Career Highlights

Throughout her career, Jackie Ormes created a total of four comic series: Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem, Candy, Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger, and Torchy in Heartbeats. Her comic series, Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger, was so popular that there was a "Patty-Jo" Doll created, in which she even hand-paint features on a few of them. Her final comic series before her death was Torchy in Heartbeats. Ormes died on December 26, 1985, in Salem, Ohio, due to a cerebral hemorrhage.

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