In 1950, heroes featuring African-Americans were few and far between; black comic strip heroes were even more scarce. Trailblazing and in full color, The Chisholm Kid was the exception.

Running in the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the nation’s prominent African-American newspapers, The Chisholm Kid championed a positive image, namely a heroic cowboy on par with his white comic strip contemporaries, including Hopalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger.

A new exhibit at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa showcases this revolutionary strip and honors the many real-life black cowboys who, just after the Civil War, found work driving cattle on the Chisholm Trail from Texas and across Indian Territory.

With the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and the end of the war in 1865, former slaves took their skills working with livestock and put them to use as drovers. In the following decade, at least 25 percent of the cowboys on the Chisholm Trail were believed to be African-American.

The Chisholm Kid, Lone Fighter for Justice for All – the exhibition’s title – showcases comics from Gilcrease’s archives, including those run by the Pittsburgh Courier and other strips featuring African-American heroes. These unique art forms foreshadowed the upcoming civil-rights era.

The collection, curated by the Museum of UnCut Funk, also has comics from the University of Michigan’s Special Collections Library.

The exhibit runs through March 17. For more information, visit gilcrease.org.

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