In search of pre-1950s African-American written humour
February 8, 2015 1:55 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of written and visual humour (newspaper columns, stories, comic strips) produced by African-Americans for an African-American audience prior to the Civil Rights era. I've read Langston Hughes's Simple stories, and have seen some scattered examples of cartoons by Jackie Ormes, Chester Commodore, &c., but was hoping to find more. Online archives would be great, but I'm also interested in hearing about print anthologies. Thanks!
posted by Perodicticus potto to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The archives of the Chicago Defender are online, but behind a paywall. Your local library might have a subscription, though.
posted by MsMolly at 2:23 PM on February 8, 2015

"Roy Blount's book of Southern Humor" has pretty diverse sources if you can find a copy.
posted by nickggully at 2:39 PM on February 8, 2015

Try the Pacific Appeal (San Francisco, 1862-1880).
posted by vickyverky at 3:02 PM on February 8, 2015

Best answer: Mammy's Chillun and other poems is written by Ulysses Grant Wilson in 1920. He calls it "some bits of humor and truth gathered at first hand from among my people."

Might also want to check out The black cat club : Negro humor & folk-lore (1902) by James David Corrothers. Possibly more wit than humor. You can get the full text at that first link.

American Æsop; negro and other humor (1926) by William Pickens is also fully available online.

I'm not sure how much these were for an African-American audience. I've been poking around in the African American Wit and Humor subject headings but it's really half weird racist stuff by white people and half stuff by actual African-Americans (and a lot of that is contemporary). If you can track down a copy of African American Humor: The Best Black Comedy from Slavery to Today it would probably help a lot.
posted by jessamyn at 4:25 PM on February 8, 2015

Best answer: Look into All-Negro Comics, created entirely by African-American artists, and Negro Romance, which was written by a White writer but drawn by a pioneering African-American artist and aimed at an African-American readership, telling stories that were really progressive for their time.

If you can find old issues of R. Crumb's Weirdo magazine, he used to do some great features about African-American illustrators and cartoonists of the early 20th century. There was one about this artist who did these hilarious, bizarre comic strips about talking frogs, circa 1920-something maybe, and IIRC Crumb went into a thing about frogs serving as frequent lead characters in early African-American comics the same way mice did in stuff for White people. Fascinating stuff. He would also dig up these old labels for hair-straighteners and stuff and just rhapsodize over the cool graphic design. This is making me want to dig through some crates to find my old issues of Weirdo!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:44 PM on February 8, 2015

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