Forty years ago, Saturday morning cartoons first introduced positive black characters; see the animation inspired exhibit at Brown v. Board
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site News Release
Contact: Joan Wilson
Phone number: (785) 354-4273
Hey Hey Hey! Animation Inspired Exhibit, Funky Turns 40, opens at Brown v. Board Site
Topeka, KS – Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site is pleased to open a new exhibition, Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution, a nostalgic collection of images of black characters of popular cartoons of the 1970s. The exhibit is free and open to the public through July 30.
Co-curated by cartoon aficionados Pamela Thomas and Loreen Williamson, Funky Turns 40
commemorates the 40th anniversaries of popular Saturday morning cartoons that featured positive black characters for the first time in television history and draws on collections from the Museum of Uncut Funk. “I believe these cartoons are national treasures,” says Thomas. “They were seen by a generation of children and not only changed the way that black kids saw themselves but the way white kids saw them as well.”
Portrayals of blacks in comic strips and cartoon films in the 20th century were often racially derogatory and stereotyped. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Saturday morning television cartoons began to feature black animated characters in a positive and realistic manner. Fueled by the civil rights movement and commercial success of black musicians and athletes, television producers began to explore projects with wider, multicultural appeal.
Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids paved the way for a host of characters and shows featuring music icons, sports heroes, and multicultural casts like the The Jackson 5ive, Josie and the Pussy Cats, The Harlem Globetrotters and I Am the Greatest, featuring Muhammad Ali. For the first time, children saw black cartoon characters that looked and talked like real people, full of warmth, intelligence, and humor.
The production of these cartoons also employed black animators, musicians, and actors – jobs that were traditionally filled by non-blacks who often approximated their understanding of black culture. Forty years later, the legacy of these revolutionary cartoons has eclipsed the stereotypical images that came before and paved the way for new productions like The Proud Family, Little Bill, Static Shock, Fillmore and Doc McStuffins.
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site tells the story of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ended legal segregation in public schools. The site is located at 1515 SE Monroe Street in Topeka, Kansas, and is open free of charge from 9 am to 5 pm daily, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. For more information call (785) 354-4273 or visit www.nps.gov/brvb
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