Obscurities of the Day: Four Features from the Chicago Defender

To welcome our new African-American president (who I’m sure follows this blog regularly) here are a few features produced for Barack Obama’s biggest booster in Chicago, the Chicago Defender.

First we have So What?, a panel feature that ran irregularly in the Chicago Defender from 1939 to 1962, making it one of the longest lasting features in that paper. It was originally done by the great Jay Jackson, then was taken over from 1949 on by Chester Commodore. Our example is from the Commodore years. So What? was a gag panel without recurring characters

Next we have Ravings of Professor Doodle, another Defender feature that was created by Jay Jackson. Doodle was a latter day Everett True; he took it upon himself to rather vigorously enforce his standards of propriety on all who had the misfortune to cross his path. There were quite a few features of this sort in black papers in the 40s and 50s that were meant to gently, or not so gently, tell blacks to behave better if they wanted to be treated with respect by whites. Our example here is from well after Jackson’s short tenure; this one is by Henry Brown. Chester Commodore also worked on the feature after Jackson.

Li’l Smart Alex was a short-lived kid feature by Henry Brown. It ran 1950-51.

The Notorious Mr. Jim Crow is a pointedly political strip about a racist Southern politician. The strip was penned by Garrett Whyte and ran from 1946 to 1951. Crow’s speech pattern is lifted from the Senator Claghorn character of the Fred Allen Show, the same distinct voice we remember better today when it was appropriated by Foghorn Leghorn in the Warner Brothers cartoons.

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