Being a fan of black animation like… all my life, I find this new exhibit exciting!
In Harlem, New York, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has an exhibit that looks at the appearance of black characters on Saturday morning cartoons in the 70s, through drawing and production cells.
As NY1’s Roger Clark reports, “Strong, positive black characters like Lt. Uhura from “Star Trek”, Peter Jones from “The Hardy Boys” and Verb from “Schoolhouse Rock” became cartoon favorites along with animated real life entertainers and athletes like The Jackson Five, Muhamed Ali and The Harlem Globetrotters.”
Some people may not realize how painstaking and tedious it is to make a cartoon and in the past that process was used to depict black people in derogatory ways.
“The animator may produce hundreds of [cells] to get an actual frame under the camera to film a cartoon,” says the exhibit “Funky Turns 40” Curator Pamela Thomas.
Thomas further states: “The images were so derogatory, either the black character had very big lips or extremely bulging eyes or their body parts were elongated.”
Schomburg Center Assistant Curator Steven Fullwood added about the 70s themed exhibit, “It was the first time that children as well as black America and white America were looking at images of black people that were both naturalistic and realistic, they weren’t these stereotypes.”
“Funky Turns 40” runs at the Schomburg Center through June 14.
See the TV1 report below, as well as the 1941 cartoon “Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat” that depicts those “derogatory images” and you can see how far we have come in animation.