FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 27, 2023
Collection of Jackie Ormes and Black Press
Materials Acquired by Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
COLUMBUS – The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum has acquired a collection of materials documenting the life of pioneering Black cartoonist Zelda “Jackie” Ormes as well as sections of Black press newspapers amassed by collector and biographer Nancy Goldstein. Ormes was the first Black woman cartoonist with a nationally-distributed comic strip in the United States.
The collection includes rare eight-page color comic sections from the Pittsburgh Courier that include Jackie Ormes’s adventure strip Torchy in Heartbeats, as well as other strips centered around Black life and characters. Of major significance in the collection is an original Patty-Jo doll produced by the Terri Lee Company in the late 1940s, based on Jackie Ormes’s single panel cartoon Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger which ran from 1945-1956. The Patty-Jo doll became the first African-American doll to have an extensive upscale wardrobe, in contrast to prior creations that adhered to racist stereotypes.
Goldstein collected these materials while conducting research for her seminal book, Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist (University of Michigan Press, 2008). Goldstein noted: “the collection is significant because it brings hard-to-find materials relating to Jackie Ormes’s life and work together in one place.” Other materials include Ormes’s FBI file and dozens of folders of Goldstein’s research materials, documents, interviews, and ephemera relating to Ormes’s life and work. “Some of the items could suggest new avenues for researchers, teachers, students, writers, and cartoonists. For instance, details about Ormes’s work in fundraising for the Urban League, housing, or the March of Dimes could inspire more exploration into Black women’s social activism of the era. Other information found in these materials could be a jumping off point for an in-depth history—or historical fiction or even a stage play—based on the fashionable mixed-race Sutherland Hotel where the Ormeses lived.”
Jenny Robb, Head Curator of Comics and Cartoon art said of the collection, “We are so excited to acquire this essential collection of materials related to comics trailblazer Zelda “Jackie” Ormes. There is so much interest in the work of Ormes, and we know this material will be in high-demand by researchers, educators, publishers, students and fans. This collection compliments our substantial holdings of work by Sam Milai, Ollie Harrington, and other cartoonists of the Black Press newspapers.”