Release Date: For Immediate Release

Contact: Antoine McDonald

(585) 428-8364

The Rochester Public Library hosts the Funky Turns 50: Black Character Revolution Firsts panel exhibition and program celebrating positive Black animation characters from popular 1970s Saturday morning cartoons at the Central Library.

Rochester, NY – The Local History and Genealogy Division is pleased to host the Funky Turns 50: Black Character Revolution Firsts panel exhibition, commemorating the 50th anniversaries of 1970s Saturday morning cartoons that featured positive Black animation characters for the first time in television history.

The exhibition will be on display in the Local History Exhibits Hallway on the second floor of the Rundel Memorial building at 115 South Avenue 14604. The colorful and robust, yet informative and historic exhibition opened to the public on February 1st and will run through June 30th, 2024.

On Saturday February 17th from 1:00pm – 2:30pm, Loreen Williamson and Pamela Thomas, Co-Founders of the Museum Of UnCut Funk (, and Co-Curators of the panel exhibition, will discuss the role Black animated cartoon characters, and the Black animators who created them, played in the story of 1970s animation and beyond. With remarks from Emmy – nominated animation producer, director, and storyboard artist, Dennis Woodyard, this program will also shed light on Rochester’s connection to the world of animation.

During the early days of cartoons, Black people were portrayed as stereotypical caricatures such as cannibals, coons, and mammies with racially derogatory facial features and ignorant dialect. It was not until the late 1960s and early 1970s that Black animated characters were presented in a more realistic and positive manner. Funky Turns 50 features a timeline of the first positive appearances of Black animation characters in television and history and highlights the historic significance of these stereotype breaking appearances in Saturday morning cartoons and animated specials. Fueled by the Civil Rights Movement and the commercial success of Black musicians and athletes, television producers began to create cartoon series with wider, multicultural appeal. The pioneering cartoon characters that starred in popular series like Fat Albert and the Cosby KidsJackson 5iveJosie and the Pussy Cats, and Harlem Globetrotters, represent an unheralded legacy of the civil rights era and several animation, American, and Black History firsts.  

“Being able to incorporate Rochester connections into this exhibit through the Democrat and Chronicles newspaper database that documents instances such as when the Jackson 5 played a concert at the former Rochester War memorial is why I am happy to be a Black librarian with a focus on Rochester’s Black history” says Antoine McDonald, Reference Librarian and Project Manager for the library’s Archive of Black History and Culture. 

The Local History and Genealogy Division is happy to host this exhibit because it serves as stimulating and engaging visual representation of the very information that can be found in the records we collect and preserve here in our archives and Special Collections. For instance, artist Cab Calloway was featured in the exhibit because he was born in Rochester and played a significant role in the early days of the animation industry.

I am excited to bring this exhibition to my hometown library,” said Williamson. “I hope that school children will get an opportunity to see it and learn about the barrier-breaking Black characters and Black animators that made my childhood growing up in Rochester so much fun.” 

I believe these cartoons are national treasures,” said 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.”

Funding for this exhibition has been made available by the Patricia Dodge Performing Arts Foundation Inc. “We are pleased to support bringing this unique Black history exhibition to Rochester,” said Jerry Capers, foundation Artistic Director.

About the Museum Of UnCut Funk:

Established in 2009 by Loreen Williamson and Pamela Thomas, the Museum Of UnCut Funk ( is the first virtual museum that celebrates and pays homage to 1970’s Black History and Culture, and the contributions and legacies of the Black icons who made this decade so funky. The virtual museum showcases a unique collection of artifacts which include Animation Art and Collectibles, Broadway Window Cards, Coins, Comic Books, Comic Strips, Movie Posters, Stamps, Sports, and Vintage Advertising Art items that feature Black images. Traveling exhibitions that showcase artifacts from the museum collection have been seen by 322,459 people to date in museums and cultural institutions across the country. Their Funky Turns 50: Black Character Revolution Firsts panel exhibition has been seen by 33,851 people at libraries, cultural centers, and historic sites across the country.

About the Patricia Dodge Performing Arts Foundation Inc.

The Patrica Dodge Performing Arts Foundation Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that seeks to support artists in the performing arts and activities that enhance learning.

About the Local History Division of the Rochester Public Library

The Local History & Genealogy Division holds the largest collection of primary and secondary source materials about the history of Rochester and the Genesee Valley in the region, as well as a vast assemblage of resources to help you research your family history.

Add Your Comment

Related Posts