Beloved black cartoon characters deserve more recognition from Fat Albert, Princess Tiana, The Proud Family, Frozone, and Miles Morales.
Prepare yourself to be delighted, enlightened, and motivated! Animation possesses an extraordinary ability to enthrall people of all generations and walks of life. As the animation industry progresses, animated shows and films are embracing more diversity, featuring characters from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.
In this piece, we’ll delve into the most influential and uplifting black animated characters that have made a lasting impact on the animation realm, leaving a profound impression on a new wave of animators and fans.
Cartoons With Black Characters
Can you recollect the endearing black cartoon characters that have stolen your heart? If you find it challenging to remember many, that’s completely fine. While figures like Huey Freeman, Cleveland Brown, Suga Mama, and Michiko Malandro are quite popular, there are many others who are equally deserving of appreciation.
Cartoons have significantly evolved over the years, moving away from scant minority representation and cliched portrayals. The era of predominantly white, cisgender, heterosexual characters, mainly created by white men, has given way to a flourishing animation world characterized by remarkable diversity.
These cherished black cartoon characters are just a small glimpse of this vast panorama. Prepare yourself to expand your list of favorites!
30Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
Final episode date: August 10, 1985
First episode date: September 9, 1972
In 1972, Filmation debuted “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” inspired by the personal experiences and relationships of the renowned comedian and television celebrity, Bill Cosby. Beyond conceptualizing the series, Cosby also lent his voice to numerous characters and appeared in cameo roles at the beginning and end of each episode.
The show showcased vivid portrayals of Black teenage boys dwelling in financially challenged and distressed urban areas, striking a balance between entertainment and education.
It aimed to provide moral lessons and guidance to viewers, encouraging them not to turn a blind eye towards the real-life challenges and hardships faced by African-Americans living in poverty-stricken and marginalized communities during that period.
29Princess Tiana (The Princess And The Frog)
Friends: Prince Naveen, Charlotte La Bouff, Mama Odie,
Foes: Dr. Facilier, Reggie, Darnell, and Two Fingers,
Princess Tiana holds the honor of being the first African-American princess and the ninth official Disney Princess in the franchise.
Initially christened as Maddy, her character has captivating light brown eyes and personifies a cheerful, playful, and committed young woman. In contrast to other princesses in the Disney universe, she appears to be the only one who resides in a more contemporary era.
Interestingly, she was the first Disney princess to have a living mother but a deceased father. Moreover, she marked the end of an era, being the last Disney princess crafted using 2D animation. Disney took diligent care to sidestep inadvertent racial stereotypes while representing her character.
28Craig Of The Creek
“Craig of the Creek” is a charming animated series that has captivated viewers around the world, broadcasting on Cartoon Network. Debuting in 2018, the show trails the adventures of Craig, a young boy who ventures into the wild and untamed landscape of a local creek along with his best pals, Kelsey and JP.
The distinctive aspect of “Craig of the Creek” is its diverse ensemble, boasting significant black characters who play essential roles in the storyline.
The central character, Craig, is brought to life by the gifted black voice actor Phil LaMarr, and Craig’s spirited friend Kelsey is voiced by Mika Abdalla, a talented black actress.
“Doc McStuffins” is a cherished children’s animated series that premiered on Disney Junior in 2012. The series narrates the fascinating exploits of Doc, a young black girl possessing a special knack for mending damaged toys and plush creatures.
Assisted by her reliable tools and pals, Doc operates a clinic in her backyard, diagnosing and treating the various conditions of her toy patients. A noteworthy aspect of “Doc McStuffins” is its commendable depiction of a black female protagonist in a caring and affirmative role.
26The Proud Family
First episode date: September 15, 2001
Network: Disney Channel
“The Proud Family,” an animated family sitcom from Disney, has garnered considerable acclaim. The narrative orbits around the adventures of Penny Proud, a vibrant 14-year-old girl (voiced by Kyla Pratt) coming of age. The series concluded with an animated film after just two seasons.
Disney has since revived the show under the title “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder,” which is set to debut on Disney+ on 23 February 2022. It portrays a 16-year-old Penny grappling with fresh adolescent quandaries and predicaments, all the while preserving the same spirited humor and comedy of its predecessor.
25Frozone (The Incredibles)
Released: 2004 Disney/Pixar
“The Incredibles” showcases the legendary actor Samuel L. Jackson as the unforgettable cartoon character Frozone. Serving as a trailblazer for black superheroes, Frozone stands out as an exceptional superhero in his own merit, maintaining a close friendship with the Parr family.
24Miles Morales – Spiderman
Fictional universe: Marvel Universe
First appearance: Ultimate Fallout #4 (August 2011)
Place of origin: Brooklyn, New York City (Earth-1610)
Miles Morales, widely recognized as Spider-Man, is a black cartoon character who made his first appearance in the comic book series “Ultimate Fallout” in 2011.
Conceived by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, he is the successor to Peter Parker as the second Spider-Man character in the Marvel Comics universe.
23Jodie Landon – Daria
First appearance: “The Invitation” (1997)
One cannot exaggerate how forward-thinking Jodie truly was. Her sharp wit, intellectual prowess, and knack for helping her friends navigate challenging scenarios made her the quintessential friend. Jodie Abigail Landon is a recurring character in the series “Daria.”
She is part of the Landon family, daughter to Andrew and Michele Landon, and sister to Evan and Rachel. Jodie is a student at Lawndale Middle School and the character is brought to life by the voice of Jessica Cyndee Jackson.
22Miranda Killagllen – As Told by Ginger
“In As Told by Ginger,” Miranda initially stood out as one of the “mean girls,” but I found her gradual transformation into a kinder individual by the story’s end quite compelling. Even with her somewhat harsh demeanor, her swift and on-point sarcastic retorts always left an impression. And of course, her appearance was consistently delightful.
21Trixie Carter – American Dragon
Trixie Carter was the grounding force amongst her friends! She was devoted to her two best friends, serving as their protector in the magical community and often referred to as “Mama Trixie” within her close-knit circle. As a skilled skateboarder and cheerleader harboring high ambitions, she deftly maintained a balance between her tomboyish traits and femininity.
20Penny Proud – The Proud Family
Presenting Penny Proud from “The Proud Family,” a pioneering figure among black animated characters.
When the series premiered on the Disney Channel in 2001, it acquainted viewers with a 14-year-old Penny navigating life in an African American home and dealing with the trials of adolescence.
Being one of the first black female protagonists in an animated series targeted at a younger audience, Penny is recognized by many as one of the top black cartoon characters. But what distinguishes Penny is her authentic and relatable representation. With her unique personality, hobbies, and experiences, she transcends being just a character to become a friend.
19Susie Carmichael from Rugrats
Where would we be without Susie Carmichael, right? She was the quintessential embodiment of a versatile character. A singer and dancer, she consistently put a halt to Angelica’s mischiefs and was even multilingual.
Even in her toddler years, Susie emerged as the ideal “mom friend,” much like many of her Black cartoon counterparts—an energetic, amiable, and positive individual. Susie frequently guides the other babies and, as an honest and intelligent companion, she is a trusted figure for them.
18Storm From X-Men
Notable aliases: Ororo Iquadi T’Challa, Ororo Munroe
Storm, from the X-Men franchise, stands out as one of the most admired and cherished black cartoon characters. Debuting in Giant-Size X-Men #1 in 1975, Storm rapidly earned fans’ affection with her captivating personality, potent abilities, and intriguing backstory.
Known alternatively as Ororo Munroe, Storm is a mutant with the ability to manipulate the weather. Born in Kenya, she spent her early years as a street thief before discovering her powers and becoming part of the X-Men.
Throughout the series, Storm is portrayed as a formidable and competent combatant, as well as a sagacious and empathetic leader.
17Michiko Malandro From Michiko & Hatchin
First Appearance: Farewell, Cruel Paradise
The roster wouldn’t be thorough without the inclusion of an anime character, and Michiko indisputably ranks as my top choice for a black anime character.
A genuine badass, she broke free from a prison notorious for being the world’s most ruthless. Her resilience and determination empowered her to confront adversaries much bigger than herself. Not only does she hold the protagonist role in the series, but her character also draws inspiration from the late R&B artist, Aaliyah.
16Libby Folax from Jimmy Neutron
Friends: Cindy Vortex; Jimmy Neutron
Family: Mr. Folfax, Mrs. Folfax
In my viewpoint, Libby stands unparalleled as the ultimate cartoon character. As a descendant of Queen Hasabataslapya, she was esteemed as black nobility.
Beyond being fashionable and technologically astute, she also boasted some of the coolest gadgets (apologies, Jimmy). Aside from her discerning taste in music, Libby exhibited a fantastic sense of humor and an eclectic collection spanning hip-hop, funk, and R&B.
15Valerie From Josie and The Pussycats
Apart from being an adept musician, Valerie was also perceived as the “academically adept” member of her ensemble, mastering math and mechanics.
I took pleasure in observing such an intelligent character who wasn’t depicted in a stereotypically “geeky” manner. Beyond her proficiency in playing various instruments, Valerie demonstrated equal flair in her fashionable attire and intellectual pursuits.
14Foxxy Love From Drawn Together
Foxxy Love, from Drawn Together, is a humorous and audacious character who parodies Valerie from Josie and the Pussycats. While her character’s purpose is to humorously address black stereotypes, she also embodies a sexually fluid persona, a depiction seldom found in cartoons.
Foxxy’s sexuality is one of her most emphasized traits, marked by a kinky and libertine demeanor. Despite being predominantly seen with men, Foxxy is also portrayed as having and taking pleasure in relations with women.
13Gerald Martin Johanssen
Gerald Martin Johanssen, in the TV series “Hey Arnold!” and its inaugural film, assumes the role of Arnold’s best friend—a character he reprises in “Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie.”
He is almost invariably involved in Arnold’s latest escapades. Often serving as the voice of reason within their fourth-grade friend circle, he provides a natural balance to Arnold’s upbeat outlook.
12Token Black – South Park
Parents: Linda Black, Steve Black
Notable aliases: Token Black, Tupperware
Played by: Adrien Beard
Creators: Matt Stone, Trey Parker
Token Black, being the sole black kid in Craig’s crew, emerges as one of the most intriguing characters. His name, barring the appearances of his family, signifies the term “token black guy,” which is a reference to racial diversity.
In a predominantly white community, he is frequently depicted as a composed, rational decision-maker and an intelligent individual who advocates for his rights.
Kiki Pizza, a progeny of the Fish Stew Pizza restaurant, is the twin sibling of Jenny Pizza. Contrary to her sister, who exhibits minimal interest in the family enterprise, Kiki assists her father at the restaurant. Even though she possesses a traditional comedic flair and a hint of sassiness, she maintains a very receptive stance towards magic.
10Cleveland Brown Jr.
The Cleveland Show
“The Cleveland Show” is a derivative of the renowned animated series “Family Guy.” It centers around the escapades of Cleveland Brown, one of the infrequent black male protagonists in the animation sphere. The show, which premiered on Fox in 2009 and spanned four seasons, chronicles Cleveland’s relocation from Quahog, Rhode Island, to Stoolbend, Virginia, with his new wife and stepchildren.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Sokka hails from the Southern Water Tribe, born to Chief Hakoda and Kya, and he grew into a valiant Water Tribe warrior. Following the death of his mother and his father’s departure for war, Sokka was brought up by his grandmother Kanna and his younger sister Katara.
As a young boy, Sokka was left behind when Hakoda and all the tribal men set off to battle the Fire Nation; even though he yearned to join his father on the mission, Sokka wasn’t granted permission to do so.
8Mr. T – Mister T
Mr. T emerged as a global sensation in the 80s, amassing widespread popularity. His memorable roles span numerous television shows and movies. “Mister T” was an iconic animated series where he played the lead role.
In the show, he assumes the role of a gymnastics team coach while unraveling mysteries on the side. Although the show only spanned a few seasons, it forever altered the landscape of black cartoon characters.
TV Show: Danny Phantom
This vibrant and self-assured character won our admiration with her unyielding stand for justice and her adept navigation of the eerie world of ghost hunting, marked by poise and resilience.
In her role as the captain of the school’s ghost hunting squad, Valerie was both a romantic prospect and a competitor to the series’ protagonist, Danny Fenton. She infused the show with complexity and subtlety as she grappled with diverse challenges from spectral confrontations, emotional upheavals to familial issues.
The influence of Valerie as a black female lead in the animated realm is profound. She serves as an affirmative and empowering representation of black girls and women, demonstrating their strength, confidence, and proficiency.
TV Show: Fairly Odd Parents
A.J. is recognized as one of Timmy’s closest companions – an intelligent, affluent kid who somewhat lacks social skills, resulting in limited popularity.
His family’s sizable house is situated near Chester’s Trailer, indicating their significant wealth. A.J. has managed to pass only Mr. Crocker’s class, earning him the status of a genius amongst his peers. His prowess in academics is further established by his victories at the science fair.
However, his tendency to ostentatiously flaunt his exceptional intelligence often leads to tensions with his less academically-gifted friends. Even with his potential to gain admission into an Ivy League university at merely ten years old, he continues to stay in the same grade as Timmy.
TV Show: Teen Titans Go!
Bumblebee, also known as Karen Beecher, is not just a superheroine in the Teen Titans Go universe, but also a former leader of Titans East. She transitioned from being a part of both Titans teams to becoming an independent hero. Her character is marked by positivity, enthusiasm, and a sunny disposition, and she enjoys spreading similar positive vibes in others. She has a particular fondness for Starfire due to her optimism and vibrancy.
While Bumblebee was excited to join the Titans, she stands out as the only one who gets to voice her thoughts, as Robin typically interrupts the rest. However, despite her strong and bright exterior, Bumblebee has a notable weakness – her uncontrollable rage. When she becomes overly agitated, her fury reaches explosive levels, rendering her virtually unmanageable.
“Codename: Kids Next Door” is a much-loved animated series that ran on Cartoon Network from 2002 to 2008. The narrative unfolds around a band of children who establish a covert organization to combat the tyranny of adults and safeguard children’s rights worldwide.
Among the standout characters is Numbuh 5, a black girl who performs the role of the squad’s strategic expert and armament specialist.
Numbuh 5 is a character characterized by her confidence and capability, renowned for her rapid wit and tactical abilities. She is fearless, often ready to brave danger to guard her friends and children globally, establishing her as a key figure within the show.
3Cleveland Brown – Family Guy
Cleveland Brown holds a cherished position as one of the most admired black male cartoon figures, a central element of the acclaimed animated sitcom Family Guy.
In both series, Cleveland features as a recurrent character and the central protagonist. What makes Cleveland distinct is his fusion of conventional family principles with contemporary perspectives. He’s a devoted spouse and father who places his family at the top of his priorities. Simultaneously, he’s a confident and self-possessed character who doesn’t shy away from asserting his convictions.
Valerie Brown is a character from the animated TV series Josie and the Pussycats. As a vital part of the show, she is portrayed as a young black woman who is an integral member of the eponymous band. Premiering in 1970, the show was associated with the Archie Comics universe.
Valerie marked a significant milestone in the representation of black women in animated TV, being among the earliest black female characters with a significant role in an animated series. She was characterized as resilient, self-assured, and gifted, setting a positive example for young black girls.
Gerald Johanssen, a memorable black character from the renowned Nickelodeon animated series Hey Arnold!, holds a special place in the hearts of many. The show, which spanned from 1996 to 2004, charted the escapades of Arnold, a young boy distinguished by his football-shaped head, living in an urban setting with his grandparents and companions.
Gerald, a close ally of Arnold, regularly accompanied him on their various ventures. He was characterized as a self-assured, charismatic, and street-smart young man who served as a role model not just for Arnold, but for young viewers as well. Known for his sharp wit, humor, and knack for problem-solving, Gerald was a natural leader. Beneath his tough exterior, he was a faithful friend, consistently offering support to Arnold in times of need.
What was the First Black Cartoon Show?
“Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” often recognized as one of the pioneering black cartoons on TV, was the brainchild of Bill Cosby. Premiering on CBS in 1972, the series drew inspiration from Cosby’s personal experiences as a child in North Philadelphia. The narrative centered around Fat Albert and his band of friends, all black children hailing from the inner city.
These animated characters were portrayed with complexity and individuality, each boasting distinct personalities and interests. They were depicted as typical kids grappling with common issues and experiences that all children encounter, further cementing their relatability and appeal.
Modern Black Cartoon Characters
While you might be familiar with some classic black cartoon characters, plenty of new faces deserve recognition. Characters like Stevie from The Proud Family and Gizmo from Kim Possible are hilarious and relatable, and it’s time they got their moment in the sun.
There are also many great black characters in Marvel comics, like Storm and Black Panther. These characters have a depth and richness that is often missing from other comics and are worth checking out.
Black Disney Princess
Disney’s animated characters have a history of capturing hearts worldwide, and the company has made significant progress in depicting diversity in recent years. A standout character in this aspect is Tiana from the 2009 film “The Princess and the Frog,” who holds the distinction of being Disney’s first African-American princess.
Set in the jazz age of the 1920s in New Orleans, the film follows Tiana’s journey to lift a spell that has transformed her into a frog. During her adventure, she encounters Prince Naveen, and together they strive to regain their human form. Tiana embodies strength, independence, and diligence, and her narrative underscores the significance of tenacity and resolve.
- Tiana – The Princess and the Frog.
- Frozone – The Incredibles.
- Dr. Facilier – The Princess and the Frog.
- Alisha Hawthorne – Lightyear.
- Ethan Clade – Strange World.
- Cobra Bubbles – Lilo & Stitch franchise.
- Gabriella – The Little Mermaid.
- Ashley Boulet – Recess.
- Finn the Mer-Boy – Disney Junior series Jake and the Never Land Pirates.
- Carter – Fillmore!