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Northwest African American Museum Celebrates 1970s Cartoons

'Funky Turns 40: The Black Character Revolution' honors Fat Albert and more

By Seattle Mag January 22, 2015

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This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of Seattle magazine.

If you were a kid in the early 1970s, you likely spent Saturday mornings sprawled on the living room floor in front of cartoons—and just as likely, you were unaware of the radical act taking place on the tube. But 40 years ago, Josie and the Pussycats, The Harlem Globetrotters and The Jackson 5ive were among the first television cartoons to feature positive black characters.

The new exhibition Funky Turns 40: The Black Character Revolution celebrates this rarely remarked-upon shift with an exhibit of 60 original cels from breakthrough shows. With strong black characters such as Lieutenant Uhura (in the Star Trek cartoon), Verb (from the “Schoolhouse Rock” series) and the regular joes in Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, these animated shows were subtly teaching young viewers that an integrated America was mainstream. (Current allegations aside, Bill Cosby’s role in achieving this landmark television transformation is undeniable.) Pay tribute to Black History Month with a visit to this exhibit, which proves that groundbreaking strides don’t always take the form of protest marches—sometimes they happen on the living room floor.

Runs through 5/3. Times and prices vary. Northwest African American Museum, 2300 S Massachusetts St.; 206.518.6000; naamnw.org

 

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