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

Fun Fact: The credit for being the first African-American female cartoonist is commonly mistaken to be Barbara Brandon-Croft, whose cartoons were not published until the 1990s.

Source: One Tenth of a Nation, 1953.

Fighting Common Misconceptions

Unlike many comic artists during her time, Jackie Ormes designed her characters, such as Torchy, to depict African-Americans realistically at the time. Other artists, including Stan Lee, Walter Lantz, Virgil Ross, and Walt Disney presented African-Americans in their comics as what society viewed them: having big heads, dark skin, big lips, and big eyes. Overtime, the mainstream comic book industry began to follow the lead of those few comic book artists, such as Ormes, who accurately portrayed African-Americans. Ormes also broke these barriers in the toy industry with her “Patty-Jo” doll, one of the first mainstream dolls to realistically depict African-Americans.

Source: The Unacknowledged History of Black Creators and Black Characters in Comic Books, narrated by Darrell Goza, the head of Goza Creative/ScriptGraphics Comic Books. 2016.

1947-1949. "Patty-Jo Doll", Source:

This comic character, named "Lil' Eightball", is an example of the racist depiction of African-Americans that was common in the comics industry in the early 1900s.

Source: New Funnies, Published by Dell Comics.

On the other hand, we have Jackie Ormes's "Torchy" character—a beautiful, detailed, proportionate, and realistically portrayed, young African-American woman.

Torchy in Heartbeats, August 4, 1951. Source: Library of Congress

Advertisement for the "Patty-Jo" Doll. October 18, 1947. Source: The Detroit Tribune

Awarding Her Groundbreaking Comics

On January 16 of 2014, Jackie Ormes was finally inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Hall of Fame. She also recently inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Industry Hall of Fame, where legendary comic artists such as Stan Lee, are honored.

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