AT THE DuSABLE – JUNE 27, 2014

Contact: Raymond Ward
(773) 947-0600 ext 228

Funky Turns 40 Black Character Revolution DuSable Poster

Chicago, IL. (15 March 2014) — The DuSable Museum of African American History is honored to present a new exhibition, Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution, which provides a nostalgic foray into the animated images of the Black characters of popular cartoons of the 1970s. The exhibition will open on June 27, 2014 and continue through October 20, 2014 at the Museum which is located at 740 East 56th Place (57th Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue) in Chicago.

Funky Turns 40 contains sixty pieces of Black animated art from the 1970s and featured in popular shows such as Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids, Schoolhouse Rock, and the Harlem Globetrotters. Co-curated by cartoon aficionados Pamela Thomas and Loreen Williamson, Funky Turns 40 includes a dazzling array of pieces of animated art from the Museum Of UnCut Funk, an online collection developed by Thomas and commemorates the 40th anniversary of popular 1970s Saturday morning cartoons that featured positive Black characters for the first time in television history.

“I believe these cartoons are national treasures,” says Thomas. “They were seen by a generation of children and not only changed the way that Black kids saw themselves but the way white kids saw them as well.”

It was during the late 1960s/early 1970s that Saturday morning television cartoons began to feature Black animated characters in a positive and realistic manner. Fueled by the Civil Rights movement and the over-whelming commercial success of Black musicians and athletes during this time period, television producers began to explore projects with a wide, multicultural appeal.

This new generation of Black characters were stars of their own series with a modern look and with contemporary story lines that delivered culturally relevant messages. Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids paved the way for a host of Black characters and shows featuring music icons, sports heroes, and multicultural casts like The Jackson Five, Josie and The Pussy Cats, The Harlem Globetrotters, and I Am The Greatest (featuring Muhammad Ali). Even franchises like the overtly white Hardy Boys series and Super Friends began to introduce positive Black characters who worked side by side with their white counterparts. For the first time, children saw cartoon characters that looked and talked like real Black people, full of warmth, humor and intelligence.

These shows empowered a generation of children with cartoon role models who promoted family values, education, friendship, civic duty, personal responsibility and sportsmanship in fun, vibrant bursts of animation. The production of these cartoons also employed Black animators, musicians and actors – jobs that had traditionally been filled by non-Blacks who often approximated their understanding of Black culture. It was also during this time that prominent African Americans like Bill Cosby and Berry Gordy led the development of animated television programming featuring Black characters, from concept through to art creation and production.

Practically every piece of art in Funky Turns 40 features many Black characters achieving historic firsts in television:

Peter Jones – The Hardy Boys (1969) – First positive Black male character in a Saturday morning cartoon series.

Valerie Brown – Josie and The Pussy Cats (1970) – First positive Black female character in a Saturday morning cartoon series.

Harlem Globetrotters (1970) – First positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series and first positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series featuring Black athletes

The Jackson Five (1971) – First positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series featuring Black musicians

Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids (1972-1985) – Longest running positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series

Verb – Schoolhouse Rock (1974) – First Black male superhero character in a cartoon – second Schoolhouse Rock episode to feature Black Characters

Astrea – Space Sentinels (1977) – First Black female superhero character in a Saturday morning cartoon series

This revolution in how Black animation characters were developed and portrayed represents historic change and the ultimate manifestation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. Forty years later, the legacy of these revolutionary cartoons has eclipsed the stereotypical images that came before and have paved the way for a new generation of Black animation such as; The Proud Family, Little Bill, Static Shock, Fillmore and Doc McStuffins.

Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution is partially supported by a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago, department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events. For more information on the exhibition please call 773-947-0600 or visit our website at www.dusablemuseum.org. The DuSable Museum of African American History gratefully acknowledges the Chicago Park District’s generous support of the Museum.

The DuSable Museum of African American History is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM and Sunday from 12:00 NOON until 5:00 PM. Admission is $10 for adults ($8 for Chicago residents), $7 for students and senior citizens ($5 for Chicago residents) $3 for children ages 6 through 11 ($2 for Chicago residents) and children 5 years of age and younger are admitted free. The Museum may be reached by CTA buses #3, #4 and #55 and limited free parking is also available on the premises.

About The DuSable Museum of African American History

The DuSable Museum of African American History is one of the oldest institutions of its kind in the country. Our mission is to collect, preserve and display artifacts and objects that promote understanding and inspire appreciation of the achievements, contributions and experiences of African Americans through exhibits, programs and activities that illustrate African and African American history, culture and art. For more information on the Museum and its programs, please call (773) 947-0600 or visit us at www.dusablemuseum.org


1 Comment

  • Turtel Onli
    April 21, 2020

    My operation , ONLI STUDIOS….known for creating the Black Age of Comics movement, happened to be presenting our annual Black Age of Comics convention at the DuSable Museum while this event opened. We had a former great Disney animator with us. Philo Barnhart who had worked on the Globetrotters and his parents had worked on The Jackson 5 animations. Philo was also a designed animator per the Little Mermaid. He went in the see the surprisingly powerful show case and was in tears, We all had a great time.

    Seeing the works and knowing the love they generated. Being mostly about how Funk and Blackness was presented in and by the mainstream is still a serious story to share. I look forward to the same thoughtful attention and value placed on funk and balck manifestations created in the independent flow. Most folks don’t realize the Motown Records was actually an indie label.

    Keep the Funk a fire y’all!

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