Note: Because Torchy Brown in From Dixie to Harlem was a newspaper comic strip and this webcomic is setup for comic book style pages some reformatting had to be done. The strips have been cut into individual panels and presented two strips per page. Also, because of the quality of the scans I am providing a transcript of each panel at the end of this commentary.
Zelda Mavin Jackson, the woman who would eventually be known as Jackie Ormes, was born in 1911. She began her career at the Pittsburgh Courier, a prominent African-American newspaper and, in 1937 convinced the paper's editor to take a chance on her idea for a comic strip, the first the paper would run. From Dixie to Harlem was a success and by the end of 1937 the Courier carried several comic strips.
From Dixie to Harlem ran for roughly a year and represented Ms. Ormes first foray into cartooning but not her last. In 1942 she worked for the Chicago Defender as a writer and a cartoonist, creating a single panel comic called Candy about a beautiful and sarcastic housemaid.
In 1945, Ms. Ormes went back to work for the Courier. Her new comic was called Patty-Jo 'n' Ginger. It was a single panel comic about a fashionable young woman and her insightful and precocious little sister. Patty-Jo 'n' Ginger served as offered sly, biting commentary on the politics of the day, racial and otherwise. Patty-Jo 'n' Ginger ran for eleven years.
In 1947, Ms. Ormes contracted the Terri Lee doll company to create the Patty-Jo doll. Tired of black dolls that were nothing more than offensive racial stereotypes, Ms. Ormes created the Patty-Jo doll with an extensive fashion line. The doll was something young, African-American girls could play with that looked like them. The doll was on the market until 1949 and today is considered a highly valuable collector's item. An original Patty-Jo doll can sell for around a thousand dollars at auction.
In 1950 the Pittsburgh Courier added a full-color comic page insert. Once again, Torchy Brown became a leading character for the paper. The new comic, Torchy in Heartbeats, reimagined Torchy as an independent career woman in the mold of Dixie Dugan and Brenda Starr. Torchy's last adventure saw her fighting against racism and pollution with the help of her boyfriend.
Mr. Ormes retired from cartooning due to arthritis but stayed active in her community. She was a founding member of the board of the DuSable Museum of African American History and produced fundraising fashion shows to benefit local charities in Chicago. She died in 1985.
Torchy: Now gimme th' spot light Mis tah. I'm gonna tear on out... beat up that rhythm brothe-r! Cancha see I'm in a dancin' mood?
Torchy: TA.DE.R. Ta. Ta. Ta. Looka heah! Stand by now while I out strut Mr. Gobbler.
Torchy: Wham! Now I wanta swing. Take me with ya, Em Cee.
Torchy: Shuh! Aint nothin' to it.
Bumps: Woe is me... that man's here again an' this time I think he means bizzness...
Bumps: Hold everything fella. I'll be right back...
Bumps: It's the 'lectric man, Torchy, an he's gonna turn off the stuff NOW if we don't give him that past due $4.11 bill!
Torchy: Oh f'r gee whiz Bumps! Do ya reckon he means it?
Torchy: Say. He can't do that to us. Jus' leave me at 'im!
Text box: But long about sun-down...
Torchy: I sure gave 'at guy particular HECK awright!