Alley J.P.

New York, United States

1885 – 04/16/1934


He was an editorial cartoonist (political cartoonist) whose work directed against the Ku Klux Klan earned his employer, the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper, the 1923 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. He was best known for his Hambone’s Meditations, a syndicated comic strip featuring racist Jim Crow’s caricature of an African American.

Born James Pinckney Alley near Benton, Arkansas in 1885, he worked as a potter after graduating from public school in 1903. He subsequently lived in Little Rock and Greenwood, Mississippi, developing as a commercial artist. In 1908, Ellie worked for the Little Rock engraving Company, got married and worked as a freelance cartoonist. In 1909, he and his family moved to Memphis, where he worked for the Bluff City Engraving Co.

Although he took a correspondence course, Ellie’s craft as a commercial artist and cartoonist was mostly self-taught. He worked as a freelancer for the newspaper before being hired in 1916, becoming its first cartoonist editor.

Many of his political cartoons used humor and satire. E. G. Crump, the boss of Memphis, was a frequent target. The anti-Clan cartoons of 1923 played an important role in defeating Clan-backed politicians in that year’s municipal races.

Ellie’s editorial cartoons played a central role in putting commercial pressure on the Clan, which led to the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons in Hambone’s Meditations, although popular among white Southerners, were considered racist.

Hambone’s character debuted in 1916 in one of his editorial cartoons. It evolved into Hambone’s own Meditations comic, which eventually began appearing on the front page of Commercial Appeal magazine. Hambone’s presence on the front page of the newspaper was marked by an unfavorable review by journalist Harry Wilson when covering the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Hambone’s character became so popular that Ellie released a comic book based on him. He published collections of his Hambone cartoons, the first in 1919. “Hambone’s Meditations” were canceled after the assassination of Martin Luther King, as they became the subject of ridicule from striking Memphis sanitary workers whom Dr. King came to help.

P. Elley died on April 16, 1934 after a long illness at the age of 49. His son Calvin “Cal” Ally succeeded him as chief cartoonist of Commercial Appeal magazine.

His wife Nona Ellie, who wrote dialogues for Hambone cartoons, together with Calvin and her son James Ellie continued to work on the comic for another 34 years. Eventually, its production was discontinued after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis in 1968.

Reference: Wikipedia, 2010





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