May 21, 2008

Chester Commodore Exhibition

Subject: Press release for Chester Commodore exhibit and opening program--
Sat., May 24

CONTACT: Leland Elder
(312) 747-4053

The Free Exhibition Will Open On May 24, 2008

For Immediate Release
May 7, 2008

The Chicago Public Library is pleased to announce the
opening of a free exhibition, entitled Chester
Commodore, 1914-2004: The Work and Life of a
Pioneering Cartoonist of Color, on Saturday, May 24,
2008, in the exhibit gallery at Carter G. Woodson
Regional Library, 9525 S. Halsted Street. The free
exhibition, which can be viewed during regular library
hours, will run through Dec. 31, 2008.

There will be an opening program on May 24, beginning
at 1:30 pm, featuring family, colleagues and friends
of Chester Commodore, as well as scholars who will
place Commodore's work in the context of African
American journalism.

The speakers at the opening program will include Earl
Calloway, Fine Arts editor for the Chicago Defender;
Adam Green, Professor of History at University of
Chicago; Bill Hutchins, Chester Commodore's step-son;
Tim Jackson, current editorial cartoonist for the
Chicago Defender; and Victor Margolin, retired
Professor of Art and Design History, University of
Illinois at Chicago. A reception will follow the

The Chicago Public Library's Vivian G. Harsh Research
Collection of Afro-American History and Literature was
scheduled to open this major exhibition on the career
of the late Chester Commodore-one of the country's
most influential African American cartoonists-in
April. However, due to unavoidable exhibition
preparation conflicts the April opening was postponed.
At this time, all of the exhibition construction
details have now been finalized and the new opening
date is confirmed.

The exhibit will include more than 125 items selected
from the Chester Commodore Papers, permanently held at
the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection. Among the
rare and unique items are original cartoons,
photographs, letters, awards and other memorabilia.
The exhibit will also offer additional material to
provide a historical context on the social events
depicted in Commodore's cartoons and by other African
American cartoonists.

Chesterfield (Chester) Commodore was born in Racine,
Wisconsin in 1914, and moved to Chicago at the age of
13. He was fascinated by cartoons from an early age
and was largely a self-taught artist. In 1948,
Commodore landed a job at the Chicago Defender, and
advanced quickly from doing photo layouts to story
illustrations and then to drawing humor cartoons. In
1954, Commodore became the Defender's primary
editorial cartoonist where he vigorously campaigned
for civil rights and against prejudice. Commodore
continued his consciousness-raising mission for 50
years until his death in 2004.

Commodore was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize twelve
times but he never won the Pulitzer. He was, however,
a seven-time winner of the Best Cartoon award from the
National Newspaper Publishers Association. Commodore
also received awards from such diverse groups as the
Chicago Newspaper Guild, the National Conference of
Christians and Jews, and the Lu Palmer Foundation.

One of the speakers at the program, Tim Jackson, was a
leading organizer of the recent nationwide action by
African American cartoonists protesting against their
marginalization in print media. The exhibit will call
attention to the historical significance of
cartoonists of color and the impact they have made on
race relations in the United States.

The Chicago Public Library acquired the Chester
Commodore Papers in the summer of 2007 as a generous
gift from his stepdaughter, Lorin Nails-Smooté and
family. The acquisition process was a collaborative
effort involving support from the Commonwealth Edison
Company, philanthropists Sunil and Julia Garg, and the
University of Chicago's Mapping The Stacks project,
led by Professor Jacqueline Goldsby. Support for the
exhibit (and accompanying programs) has been provided
by The Joyce Foundation, The Chicago Cotillion
Charities Foundation, and the Vivian G. Harsh Society,

For more information, please call the Harsh Research
Collection at 312/745-2080.

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