Saturday, January 27, 2024


One Shot Wonders: The Native, the Hair Restorer and the Snake by J.B. Lowitz, 1897


It's amazing how ubiquitous black characters were in the comics sections of the 1890s. There was plenty of garden-variety stereotyping and outright racist strips, of course, but then there was also an obsession with gags about exotic animals, primitve lands and jungles. And those strips generally included black characters, too -- Africans theoretically, though just about anyone from exotic climes was depicted pretty much the same way, no matter the specific location. So between these strips about exotic lands, and the constant dirge of stereotyping of American blacks, these early comic sections are absolutely brimming with black characters. It comes across to these modern eyes as oddly obsessive, a compulsion to uphold the race constantly to ridicule. Did people of the 1890s really need these racist tropes reinforced constantly? Was there a worry that if there was no constant drumbeat of race hatred that people would forget to be racists?

This strip by J.B. Lowitz ran in the New York Journal comic section of March 14 1897.


Speaking of stereotyping any and all people with dark skin — they almost always speak with the deep South (USA)version of the mangled "negro" English. Even if they are supposedly Cannibals from the African Jungle, they speak with the "Yas Massah, ah sure do likes dat dere cornbread" accent. It's as if that way of speaking is endemic to any "darkie", no matter where from.
And it wasn't just comics. Whites filled their homes with all sorts of objects featuring Black stereotypes--from cookie jars to toys to salt & pepper shakers and so on. There is a whole museum--The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Imagery in Big Rapids, Michigan--devoted to these objects. I always wondered why Whites who wouldn't want to associate with Blacks in real life would want to be surrounded by their images.
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