Tag Archives: African American Pioneers

Black History Month 2012: Matt Baker

13 Feb

Today we honor and celebrate a man who broke through the color barrier in publishing, artist and cartoonist Matt Baker. Born in 1921, some of Baker’s early work was published in the 30s. He was hired by Eisner and Iger, a company that created work for a variety of comic book publishers. Baker’s work for the studio was published by Fox Comics and Quality comics in 1944, the first known published comic book art by an African-American.

Baker was a master of “good girl art” a style that focused on female beauty and glamor across all genres of comics. He worked in all genres as well, publishing work at several companies in romance, western, science fiction, and supernatural. His most lasting contribution to comics was the reinvention of Phantom Lady. This super-hero was created by Iger employees for Quality Comics, who dropped her after a few issues. Fox Comics picked up the feature but asked for a complete redesign. Baker created a whole new look for Phantom Lady which ran for a few years. The hero has been absorbed by DC Comics and worked into their historical cannon of WWII heroes.

Matt Baker was also the artist on one of the first known graphic novels. Called a “picture novel”, It Rhymes With Lust was published by St. John’s Publications in 1950. It was a clear forerunner of the long-format comic that became a staple of the industry 30 years later. Matt Baker died at the very young age of 37 of a heart attack. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2009.

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Happy Birthday, Shirley Chisholm

30 Nov

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday, Shirley Chisholm. In 1972, Chisholm became the first black woman to run for President of the United States. Given the permanent blemish on American History that was Nixon and Watergate, how sad that our Chisholm did not win. As a young girl, she let the words of another civil/human rights pioneer guide her–the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “don’t let anybody stand in your way.”

Chisholm represented New York’s 12 Congressional District for seven terms. Chisholm was a first generation American, with her father being from Guiana and her mother being from Barbados.  One can only imagine how the current Tea Party would be treating our Shirley Chisholm.  During her bid for the Presidency in 1972, she survived 12 assassination attempts. Chisholm also was known for taking positions against the Vietnam war, minority and women’s issues, and for challenging the Congressional seniority system.  How many politicians today can claim to be “unbossed and unbought?”

Enjoy this video of Chisholm during her run for President. Chisholm also worked on a bill to give workers the right to a minimum wage–not sure our Scott Walker would have liked that! For more information on Shirley Chisholm, click here.

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