Oliver Wendell Harrington

Oliver Wendell Harrignton

Oliver Wendell Harrington (1912- 1995)
Political cartoonist and originator of Dark Laughter and Jive Gray comic strips

Harrington has been called the "greatest" African American cartoonist. He was born in Valhalla, New York on February 14, 1912, and attended The Yale School of Fine Arts and The National Academy of Design. He worked for many leading black newspapers including The Pittsburgh Courier, The Amsterdam News, and The Chicago Defender. He originated a number of comic strips including "Dark Laughter," his most famous cartoon series. It was first published in The Amsterdam News on May 25, 1935. It chronicled the trials and tribulations of its Harlem-born protaganist "Bootsie." It was the first black comic strip to receive national recognition. In later years Harrington's cartoons satirized various issues including the Vietnam War, Watergate, the government, and social conditions in the U.S.

Harrington moved to Europe, living as an American expatriate along with such notable figures as writers Chester Himes and Richard Wright. In 1961 he moved to what was formerly East Berlin. He died there on November 2, 1995.


Harrington, Oliver W. Why I Left America and Other Essays. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993.

Bootsie and Others: A Selection of Cartoons by Ollie Harrington. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1958.

Soul Shots: Political Cartoons by Ollie Harrington. New York: Longview Publishing, 1972.

Inge, M. Thomas, ed. Dark Laughter: The Satiric Art of Oliver W. Harrington. Jackson, Mississippi: University of Mississippi, 1993.