Golden Age cartoonist Jackie Ormes created dramatic narratives in her comic strip Torchy in Heartbeats (Pittsburgh Courier, 1950–54) that were unique, in that they were created by a Black woman cartoonist for Black women readers. Ormes skillfully manipulated the typical strip's narrative structure to creatively depict a single Black woman freely traveling the world in the era of Jim Crow. This essay examines two specific Torchy in Heartbeats strips from 1951–52 to reveal how Ormes worked within the then-dominant framework of respectability politics—not to challenge it, but to present a Black woman navigating racialized gender discrimination and pursuing her desires despite her “respectable status,” with sometimes terrifying results. In the process, it works to redress the paucity of scholarship on Black women's contributions to comic books and strips.
Wayward Travels: Racial Uplift, Black Women, and the Pursuit of Love and Travel in Torchy in Heartbeats by Jackie Ormes
Ayanna Dozier is a PhD candidate in art history and communication studies with a graduate option in women and gender studies at McGill University, a Joan Tisch Teaching Fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and a 2018–19 Helena Rubinstein Fellow in Critical Studies at the Whitney Independent Study Program. She is a contemporary art curator, filmmaker, performance artist, and cultural theorist who writes extensively about Black feminist philosophy, experimental cinema, performance art, and comic books, among other topics. Her writings have appeared in the journals Cléo, Feminist Media Studies, and Liquid Blackness.
Ayanna Dozier; Wayward Travels: Racial Uplift, Black Women, and the Pursuit of Love and Travel in Torchy in Heartbeats by Jackie Ormes. Feminist Media Histories 1 July 2018; 4 (3): 12–29. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2018.4.3.12
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