Torchy Brown first appeared in the Pittsburgh Courier in the 1937-38 comic strip Dixie to Harlem, drawn by the first Black Female Cartoonist, Jackie Ormes. Torchy Brown was later syndicated around the country until it’s end in 1940.
The strip was resurrected in the 1950’s as Torchy In Heartbeats. Since then, Torchy Brown, the feisty and independent singer and dancer has appeared in her own TPB (trade paperback) and several hardcover tributes to her creator, Jackie Ormes.
The emergence of Torchy Brown marked the first appearance of an independent Black woman in a nationally syndicated comic strip. Torchy’s self-reliance drove her to leave her Mississippi home at an early age and pursue her dreams of performing on stage, ultimately becoming a staple act at Harlem’s Cotton Club.
Torchy Brown was made into a popular paper doll in 1947. In keeping with Torchy Brown’s forward-thinking themes, the character often tackled hot-button issues like racism, pollution and social injustice in a comedic and approachable way. Because Torchy’s syndication was largely limited to papers with circulation extended only to Black constituents, the character has only recently gained long overdue widespread attention.
Jackie Ormes is also the creator of ‘Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger’.
Ormes created the Patty Jo doll, the first black doll based on a character.
[quoteicon author=”Jackie Ormes”]No more rag Susies or Sambos. Just KIDS!” At long last, here was an African American doll with all the play features children desired: playable hair, and the finest and most extensive wardrobe on the market, with all manner of dresses, formals, shoes, hats, nightgowns, robes, skating and cowgirl costumes, and spring and winter coat sets, to name a few.[/quoteicon]
About the Cartoonist:
Zelda Jackson “Jackie” Ormes, by most accounts, became the first nationally syndicated Black woman cartoonist in 1937. The “Touchy Brown” series first appeared in the Black-owned Pittsburgh Courier in 1937, and eventually appeared in fourteen syndicated newspapers. Ormes’s strips depicted Blacks in a very different fashion which was not the norm of her day. Typically Blacks were shown as servants or exaggerated caricatures of the “Buckwheat” or “Steppin Fetchit” variety. In contrast, Ormes’s female characters were independent and strong. Jackie Ormes said “I have never liked dreamy little women who can’t hold their own”.
Jackie Ormes The Book
Jackie Ormes: The First Black Woman Cartoonist chronicles the life of a multiply talented woman who became a successful cartoonist. Ormes’s cartoon characters–Torchy Brown, Candy, Patty-Jo, and Ginger–delighted readers of Black newspapers such as the Chicago Defender and Pittsburgh Courier between 1937-56. This biography provides an invaluable glimpse into the history and culture of that era. As a member of Chicago’s Black elite, Ormes’s social circle included leading political figures and entertainers of the day. People who knew her say that she modeled some cartoon characters after herself as beautifully dressed and coiffed females, appearing and speaking out in ways that defied stereotyped images of Blacks in the mainstream press. Ormes’s politics, which fell decidedly to the left and were apparent to even a casual reader of her cartoons and comics, eventually led to her investigation by the FBI during the McCarthy era. In the late 1940s, Ormes transformed cartoon character Patty-Jo into a doll that is now a collector’s item.
Source: Comic Vine and JackieOrmes.com