Since this is the last day of Women's History Month I wanted to take the time this week and highlight a few Black Women animators. These women found themselves in a boys only, racially unsaturated industry and became unsung heroins. Though accessing consistent and accurate information proved to be a challenge I was able to find three women animators and one important cartoonist that young women and girls like me should definitely learn more about. The first woman I am acknowledging is Jackie Ormes. She is credited for being the First African American Woman Cartoonist. She started as a proofreader for the Pittsburgh Courier and soon after began writing articles for the Chicago Defender. Her single panel comic “Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger” ran for 11 years in the Courier. During this time she contracted the production of a doll based on her comic. This doll was “the first American Black doll to have an extensive wardrobe and represent a real child" instead of the often stereotypical and offensive mammy dolls. She had another comic strip, “Torchy in Heartbeats” which depicted a beautiful, independent, adventurous Black woman. There is a book (that is now on my wish list) about Jackie titled “Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist”.
The second woman is Brenda Banks. She has a little and incomplete amount of information online. From *Ralph Bakshi documentary * that I came across via The Mary Sue she walked her way, confidently to Ralph Bakshi’s office and told him that she wanted to animate him. He learned that she had no prior experience and due to her desire to animate he gave her a chance on the film Wizards.
I also have Jackie Banks on my list but with the lack of information on the internet I am honestly confused if Brenda and Jackie are the same person or not.
Dr. Ayoka Chenzira is also considered o be once of the first African American animators and is most known for her "satirical animated short film about the cultural politics of African American hairstyles". With this she addressed the "internalization of European standards of beauty" by the African American community and more. She is easily considered to be a media activist and is currently teaching at Spelman College
For my generation, Carole Holliday is a woman we need to read and learn more about. She worked her way to Disney where she became an animator and writer with Disney and eventually directed her own film Witt's Daughter. She has done storyboards for Dreamworks' Prince of Egypt and her credits continue to include "The Little Mermaid, A Goofy Movie, Tarzan and many of the Disney direct to DVD releases". Her most recent work can be seen in the Tinkerbell movies and Disney Jr's Sophia the first.
After writing this post, I feel that like many others that try to gather information on Black animators and Black female animators, this is something we should continue to locate and create a better resource. I find it amazing but not too surprising that there is barely a mention of women of color in the history of animation.
So as to conclude the last day of Women's History Month I would like to thank and honor all of the women who are currently working in the animation industry, as artists and animators and especially women of color. May we all continue to write ourselves into this history one panel and one frame at a time.