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

Civil Rights in Her Comics

Despite the first Civil Rights Act being written in 1875, Jackie Ormes still dealt with discrimination through her whole life, making it more difficult for her to become successful in the working field.

June 26, 1948. Caption for this comic states: "Gosh—Thanks if you're beggin' for me—But how's about getting our rich Uncle Sam to put good public schools all over so we can be trained fit for any college?" Source:

Patty-Jo 'n' Ginger

Through her comics, Jackie Ormes portrayed real-life issues that African-Americans dealt with at the time, such as racial segregation and discrimination. For example, in the comic to the left, Patty-Jo asks Ginger why the government does not use their surplus of money to build quality public schools everywhere so anyone can get an education and have a chance to go to college. Ormes also skillfully symbolizes this message through the "Negro College Fund" booklet and cards that say "Pledge" in Ginger's hands. This message breaks barriers by passive-aggressively calling out the government for giving black communities lower-quality schools, which is not only discriminating, but also treating them as if they are second-class citizens. In order to professionally discuss these topics in this comic series, Ormes skillfully made her “Patty-Jo” character a little girl, which adds a touch of empathy and comedy to these otherwise controversial subjects.

Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem

Even in her earliest comic series, Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem, Ormes was breaking barriers in the African-American community. In this particular comic strip, Torchy Brown is about to board a train when she notices a sign pointing to the right that says “Colored” and another sign pointing to the left that says “White.” Instead of obeying the signs though, Torchy decides to pretend she cannot read and “accidentally” boards the white train car. This broke barriers because Ormes was showing Torchy challenging segregation. Ormes breaks these barriers by clearly protesting against the “Separate but Equal” Doctrine, showing that African-Americans still are not being treated equally and deserve their basic rights.

September 4, 1937. Source:

Segregated Bus Stop Sign from 1943. Source: Library of Congress.

Not only did Jackie Ormes speak out against segregation through her comics, but she also personally fought against these issues by being a part of organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, of Chicago. The NAACP is an organization that protests against segregation and fights for the rights of African-Americans. In fact, due to her involvement in protesting for racial and gender equality and other “communist-like” activities, Ormes was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for years during her career, as they were suspicious of anyone who might be a communist.

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