I’m pleased to have a chapter in the new collection Desegregating Comics: Debating Blackness in the Golden Age of American Comics (edited by Qiana Whitted, Rutgers UP, 2023) alongside fascinating contributions by folks such as Rebecca Wanzo, Andrew Kunka, and Julian Chambliss. Reading the book, you’ll learn about topics including Fawcett’s short-lived but ground-breaking comic Negro Romance, Black cowboys in US comics, and Phantom Lady drawn by Black cartoonist Matt Baker.
My chapter is titled, “Never Any Dirty Ones”: Comics Readership among African American Youth in the Mid-Twentieth Century. A lot of my work these days is focused on figuring out the experiences of younger comics readers at the height of the medium’s popularity. Many of the sources I regularly engage with are focused on white readers and assume their experiences are normative, so this chapter allows me to push back against those assumptions. Finding inspiration in photographs of young Black comics readers, I began to overlay other primary evidence to explore what we might learn about those experiences.
Inspired by working on this project, I have compiled a public bibliography about the experiences and demographics of Black comics readers. This initial release includes more than 60 sources – a mix of photographs, theses, journal articles, and more – that provide direct (or really compelling) evidence of the reading experience. For instance, among the list, you’ll find
- a variety of studies of young people’s reading interests conducted by students in graduate programs at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs);
- letters to the editors of historically Black newspapers that discuss comics preferences; and,
- photographs by Black photographers such as Gordon Parks and Teenie Harris.
Currently the years are constrained to 1930-1965, but as I have time and continue to identify sources, I will expand the bibliography and its chronological scope. If you have suggestions, corrections, or other comments, you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org (subj Black readers) or use the comment feature on the bibliography.