Wednesday, December 5, 2012

African American Cartoonists 4

African-American comic strips and newspaper cartoons have received little attention from historians because of the dearth of original newspapers available and a contemporary audience limited to black consumers. By 1945 there were, according to the  African American, “over 200 African-American newspapers,” most of them weeklies. My guess is that there are hundreds of other unknown Negro cartoonists waiting to be discovered in African American newspapers. The images used are not of the best quality but that’s what was available.

[1] August 1, 1925
The earliest available comic strips in the African American were by James F. Watson (a cartoonist from Pottsville, Pa.) and Fred B. Watson. It’s not known if the two were related. James Watson drew ‘Amos Hokum’ erratically from about Sept 21, 1923 until 1946. The strip was revived in 1945 with Hokum serving with the Allies in Europe. The style in the twenties was very much influenced by Billy De Beck’s character ‘Barney Google’ and, less noticeably by Rube Goldberg. 

[2] August 8, 1925
Jim Watson quit school in the fourth grade and went to work as a photographer, musician and mule driver in a coal mine before joining the Baltimore based African American as an editorial cartoonist. ‘Amos Hokum’ never made much money for Jim Watson. Lack of adequate syndication led him keep the comic strip as a spare time job. He fought for the Allies against the Japanese in World War II as did his creation ‘Amos Hokum.’ After the war he taught himself sign painting, by much trial and error, and opened his own shop. Watson had a wife and three children.

[3] February 6, 1926
Fred B. Watson drew comic strips which included real-life Negro characters like pianist Eubie Blake and Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson. He also drew true crime and divorce court stories drawn from popular newspaper accounts. 

[4] April 17, 1926
There were a variety of other African-American comic strips in the twenties and thirties, most so badly drawn they are hardly worth remembering. Titles included ‘Hamm and Beans’, ‘Tessie Tish’, a kid strip called ‘The Gang’, and ‘After the Honeymoon’. Many of these were syndicated by PNF SERVICE in New York. 

[5] February 20, 1926
[6] February 27, 1926
[7] March 16, 1926
[8] May 22, 1926
[9] May 29, 1926
[10] March 5, 1927
[11] August 17, 1929
[12] November 2, 1929
[13] November 16, 1929
[14] January 4, 1930
[15] January 13, 1940
[16] August 1, 1931
[17] August 1, 1931
[18] September 4, 1943


  1. I love the brand new design of the blog :)

  2. Depending on what type of screen you use, Yesterday's Papers will display differently. Always choose the option "view web version" when possible!