Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Gabriel Jones- A Big Step Forward.
During WWII, U.S. fighting forces were segregated, rather than integrated. This meant that Japanese Americans would serve in all Japanese-American units, African Americans would serve in all African American units. The U.S. Army was not racially integrated until President Harry Truman signed an executive order to the effect in 1948. This fact notwithstanding, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby decided to integrate their elite, fictional combat unit "The Howling Commandos".
In 1963, for the debut of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, Jack Kirby drew Gabe Jones as a realistic-looking black man. He gave Gabe the same human dignity he gave every other member of his commando squad (maybe more than he gave Dum-Dum Dugan). Only one problem: The printers thought there had been a mistake.
See, the printing company who printed the comics for Marvel were confused by why this one guy was brown. They thought it was a colorist's mistake and kept color correcting when they stripped the film for the color press plates. Finally the editorial office had to contact the printer and explain that Gabe Jones was a black man and was SUPPOSED to be brown. Since Jones had not been depicted as a stereotype, the printers had been horribly confused.
I think the preceding story illustrates how far America had come in it's understanding and treatment of it's African America citizens and how far it had yet to go.