A Special Daily Resource Shared by Kerry Ruff
Sunday, February 21st, 2021
Orrin Cromwell Evans was born in 1902 in Steelton, Pennsylvania to Maude Wilson and George J. Evans. Orrin’s dad was light skinned and could pass for white that he sometimes did, but his mother was dark-skinned and sometimes had to pretend to be the family maid when strangers came to visit their home. As a child, he was forced to confront racism because of his parents’ difficult juggling act. Orrin dropped out of school in the eighth grade however, as a teenager; he began his work in journalism at the well-regarded African American newspaper, the Philadelphia Tribune. By the early 1930, Orrin became the only African American on staff at the Philadelphia Record, where he was considered the first black writer to cover general assignments for a mainstream white newspaper in the United States. While working at the Record, he faced several death threats and discrimination, including being removed from a press conference because of the color of his skin. Mr. Evans also wrote for the Chicago Defender, The Philadelphia Independent and the Crisis, the journal of the NAACP. In 1947, after an extended strike, the Record would close its doors and Orrin decided to create a comic book to highlight the splendid history of Negro journalism. As president, the All-Negro Comics was born and the only known issue was a 48-page, standard-sized comic book with a typical glossy color cover and newsprint interior. All Negro Comics was the first known comics’ magazine, written and drawn solely by African American writers and artists. Unlike other comic books around that time, All Negro Comics sold for 15 cents rather than 10 cents. Time magazine described the villains in the lead feature, “Ace Harlem”, as “a couple of zoot-suited”, jive talking Negro muggers, whose presence in anyone else’s comics might have brought up complaints of racial distortion (misrepresentation).” Mr. Evans believed everything was all in the family and the Negro readers would not mind since the comics did not circulate outside of the pre-civil rights segregated black communities. The hero of “Ace Harlem” was an African American police detective and the characters in the “Lion Man and Bubba” feature, were meant to inspire black people’s pride in their African heritage. An attempt to publish a second issue was unsuccessful because Orrin was unable to purchase the newsprint required and it is believed, the white owned publishers blocked the distribution since they began to produce their own black-themed comics. Mr. Evans would later work at the Chester Times and then the Philadelphia Bulletin until his death in 1971. He was deeply involved in Philadelphia-area journalism, was associated with the Philadelphia Press Association, and was honored by Urban League of Pennsylvania. Shortly before his death, Orrin was honored at the annual NAACP convention and a scholarship was created in his name. Today we honor the pioneer who faced the world of journalism and created the first known comic book for African Americans, written and created by African Americans. Thank you. Happy Black History Month.