Oliver W. Harrington

Oliver W. Harrington

The Museum Of UnCut Funk pays tribute to Oliver Wendell Harrington’s Dark Laughter comic strip series.

Oliver Wendell Harrington

Oliver Wendell Harrington

Oliver Wendell Harrington has been called the greatest Black cartoonist that ever lived. He was born in Valhalla, New York on February 14, 1912, and attended The Yale School of Fine Arts and The National Academy of Design. He worked for many leading black newspapers including The Pittsburgh Courier, The Amsterdam News, and The Chicago Defender.

He originated a number of comic strips including “Dark Laughter,” his most famous cartoon series. It was first published in The Amsterdam News on May 25, 1935. It chronicled the trials and tribulations of its Harlem-born protaganist “Bootsie.” It was the first black comic strip to receive national recognition.

Harrington was a prolific contributor of humorous and editorial cartoons to the black press in the 1930s and 1940s. In later years Harrington’s cartoons satirized various issues including the Vietnam War, Watergate, the government, and social conditions in the U.S.

Harrington moved to Europe, living as an American expatriate along with such notable figures as writers Chester Himes and Richard Wright. In 1961 he moved to what was formerly East Berlin. He died there on November 2, 1995.

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It was none other than Langston Hughes who called Oliver Wendell Harrington America’s greatest black cartoonist. Yet largely because he chose to live as an expatriate far from the American mainstream, he has been almost entirely overlooked by contemporary historians and scholars of African American culture.

For airing strong antiracist views Harrington was targeted during the McCarthy era, and in 1951 he was self-exiled in Paris. In 1961 he found himself trapped behind the Berlin Wall, but he chose to remain in East Germany. His powerful political cartoons were published in East German magazines and in the American Communist newspaper The Daily World. He became a favorite among students and intellectuals in the Eastern Bloc. In America he was mainly forgotten.

For more informnation on Black Cartoonish please read Edward Brunner article: “This Job is a Solid Killer”: Oliver Harrington’s Jive Gray and the African American Adventure Strip.  http://www.uiowa.edu/ijcs/“-job-solid-killer”-oliver-harrington’s-jive-gray-and-african-american-adventure-strip

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