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Stephen Kroninger
Oliver W. Harrington 1912 -1995
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 This post celebrates the work Oliver W. Harrington. I included the Times obituary below to offer some biography but, as always, I like to let the artist speak for himself by presenting their art. The bulk of these images come from Dark Laughter: The Satiric Art of Oliver W. Harrington. "Most of the Bootsie cartoons derive from the late 1950s and 1960s...and the color cartoons were published in East German magazines during the 1970s and 1980s." There are many more in the book including a section featuring several covering the Reagan era. It's well worth the 25 bucks and a place on your bookshelf.
"Oliver W. Harrington began his career as a cartoonist when there were few blacks in that profession. His friend, the writer Langston Hughes, called him America's most popular black cartoonist and a first-rate social satirist.

Cartoons featuring Bootsie, a black man whom Mr. Harrington described in a 1964 book as "a jolly, rather well-fed but soulful character," appeared in The Amsterdam News in New York City, in The Pittsburgh Courier and elsewhere. Sometimes Bootsie is only an offstage presence: in one cartoon, two children peer out a tenement window at a robin.

The boy says: "Oooh, look, Sis, a robin red breast, and it must be spring. Do you reckon Uncle Bootsie was lying when he said spring comes three weeks earlier over 'cross town where the white folks live?"

In a chapter that Mr. Harrington contributed to the 1964 book "Harlem, U.S.A.," he recalled that Bootsie was born in 1936, after the editor of The Amsterdam News had hired him as a temporary cartoonist.

"Luckily, not much imagination was needed for the job," Mr. Harrington wrote. "I simply recorded the almost unbelievable but hilarious chaos around me and came up with a character. It seems that one of the local numbers runners dug my cartoon, and nobody covers as much Harlem territory as the numbers man. And so the cartoon's popularity grew by word of his mouth, which was very big."

The newspaper's city editor named the character Bootsie, andMr. Harrington recalled, "I was more surprised than anyone when Brother Bootsie became a Harlem household celebrity." Besides Mr. Hughes, Mr. Harrington was a friend of other writers who were part of what became known as the Harlem Renaissance, including Arna Bontemps and Rudolph Fisher.

Mel Watkins wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1993: "Mr. Harrington is a gifted painter and fine artist. His drawings, unlike those of many cartoonists, often transcend mere caricature even as they convey the impressionistic vigor and ironic thrust demanded by the genre. As his essays and cartoons demonstrate, much of his life and work was shaped by outrage at the way he and other blacks were treated."

His criticism of what he called nationwide apathy about legislation against lynching came under scrutiny from the F.B.I. during the McCarthy era. Mr. Harrington left the United States and lived for some years in Paris, where he was part of a group of black American expatriates that included the authors Richard Wright and Chester Himes.

During his years abroad, he wrote articles for American periodicals. A collection of those articles, "Why I Left America: And Other Essays," edited by M. Thomas Inge, was published by University Press of Mississippi in 1993, as was the book "Dark Laughter: The Satiric Art of Oliver W. Harrington," also edited by Professor Inge, of Randolph-Macon College.

"Dark Laughter" contained some of Mr. Harrington's best artwork from the six decades beginning with the 1930's, including much Bootsie cartoon work. It also featured what Mr. Watkins, reviewing both books jointly in The Times, called "the more openly satiric political cartoons" that Mr. Harrington produced for publications in East Germany and elsewhere.

Mr. Harrington was born in Valhalla, N.Y., and was reared mostly in the South Bronx. He became interested in cartooning as a schoolboy, he later recalled, when he drew caricatures of a teacher whom he considered a bigot.

He went on to receive a bachelor's degree from Yale University, then studied at the National Academy of Design. He also worked in public relations for the N.A.A.C.P. and served as art editor of The People's Voice."
---- source, New York Times, November 7, 1995


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caption: "Now I aint so sure I wanna get educated!‘ (1963)
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