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Today’s Google doodle honors a pioneering Black cartoonist too often overlooked

Illustrator Liz Montague sketches today's Google doodle that honors Black female cartoonist Jackie Ormes.
(Patrick Thompson)

So who is that captivating woman on Google’s landing page today?

Meet cartoonist Jackie Ormes, brought to life posthumously by fellow illustrator Liz Montague through Google’s daily doodle. On this day in 1945, Ormes debuted the “Patty-Jo ’n’ Ginger” cartoon in the Pittsburgh Courier, an African American weekly newspaper.

“Ormes was known for her satirical and stylish cartoons and comic strips that challenged the derogatory portrayals of Black female characters prevalent in the media,” Google wrote.

Ormes was the first African American woman cartoonist to create widely distributed comic strips. (More than 50 years later, Barbara Brandon-Croft would become the first Black woman to write and draw a syndicated daily strip for mainstream papers.)

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Ormes’ first comic strip, “Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem,” starred a Mississippi teen who sang and danced her way to stardom in New York City’s Cotton Club nightclub.

Of Torchy’s independence, Ormes said, “I have never liked dreamy little women who can’t hold their own,” in one of her last interviews, according to the New York Amsterdam News.

When the search engine came to Montague about the project, her first reaction was feeling honored, she told Google. Then, she felt intimidated. She wanted to do Ormes justice.

Cartoonist Jackie Ormes
Cartoonist Jackie Ormes
(Google / Gayle Ormes Hawthorne)
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“She made such honest, fearless work and centered it entirely around Black women,” Montague told Google. “It’s harder than you would think: to make characters that look like you, when you look so different from most people in that space, so to do the work she did in mid-20th century America is mind-boggling.”

That work blazed trails and shattered glass ceilings. Patty-Jo of “Patty-Jo ’n’ Ginger” fame eventually became one of the first high-quality American Black dolls. Even as a precocious 6-year-old, the character tackled crucial topics, like her 1955 commentary on the lynching of Emmett Till.

“Ormes’s heroines faced real-life issues like romantic heartbreak, environmental justice, and gender inequality, mirroring the issues Ormes encountered in her own life and those around her,” Google wrote. “Her characters were all independent women — confident, intelligent, attractive, and brave, who persevered against adversity to reach their next adventure.”


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