Jay Jackson isn't best known for superheroes, but he certainly was one. He was also fearless. Who but a hero would draw this image at a time when integration was unheard of, segregation was the unwritten law and yes, African-Americans were still being beaten when they dared to say the races should get along. Much less that they might interact in skimpy attire. At the time this postcard was drawn by Mr. Jackson, swimming pools were segregated. If you watch the news, you know we still have a long way to go.
Jay Jackson was Black cartoonist who drew white pinups, but he did much more. He spent most of his life encouraging understanding between the races and teaching valuable lessons with humor and insight in his comics.
One would think the simple risqué "girly" postcards would be as disposable as the one cent stamp used to mail them in the 1940s, but the splendid HERE IS IS !! IN BLACK AND WHITE postcard was found in no less than Langston Hughes archives after he passed. It was that notable. Langston Hughes saved the postcard.
So am I. It comes up on ebay once in a while, and it is just about the best way you can spend ten bucks.
Why did Jackson draw white pinups? Because in 1945, even a penny postcard required expendable income for the members of his own race. Like all commercial artists, he drew to sell. So most of his risqué postcards were of white glamor girls. Here it Is in Black and White was a piece of 3 x 5 courage and one which resonates still today.
Jay Jackson, the artist (and he was an artist, despite the ephemeral nature of postcards) passed away at the age of 48. Jet Magazine ran an obituary for him in 1954. His work appeared in African-American newspapers and magazines. He also ran an art clearinghouse for advertisers and publishers. He drew the Pepsi advertisements which appeared in Ebony, a story in itself. He did posters for War bonds during World War Two. Our friends at The Museum of Uncut Funk have made available entire serial works of the Speed Jaxon syndicated series he drew for the Chicago Defender HERE and he also did a series of patriotic posters during World War Two. An essay on the artist by Amy Mooney appears HERE.
Jay Jackson was one of four artists who drew the "Bungleton Green" series, a newspaper comic strip for African-American readers in the Chicago Defender from 1920 to 1963. He is probably best known for his "As Others See Us" comics which did just that…and both African-American and White readers laughed while they learned.
A scrap of paper on the reverse of one of his drawings written in the artist's hand indicates his income during the years from 1944 to 1947, from when the postcards were drawn, as going over 10,000 a year only once.
What is the hallmark of a Jay Jackson Pinup postcard? Red cheeks on the women and a loose spinal column on the man. The cards were printed in cheap lithograph form by Colourpicture Publishers on Newbury Street in Boston. The images he drew as postcards are not identified in the Colourpicture catalog as being by an African American, and I do not see the most notable one in the catalog. Likely not a mistake, as it was not only hot, but incendiary at the time. Few postcards transcend the genre. This one does. In the book "Zoot Suit: The Enigmatic Career of an Extreme Style" by Kathy Peiss, Mr. Jackson's male characters are discussed as women-chasing wolves. Ain't we all?
The original sketch drawings, postcards and Colourpicture catalog are collection Jim Linderman. The pages from Jay Jackson's Sketchbook are collection Jim Linderman PAGES FROM THE JAY JACKSON SKETCHBOOK will be published by DULL TOOL DIM BULB BOOKS in 2015
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