An African-American President in 1976?

In the 1930s and 1940s, comic books were one of the most popular forms of entertainment among the nation's youth, combining as they did narratives, graphics, and low prices. The 1940s in particular witnessed an explosion of new comic creations, most of which focused on superheroes, adventure, and action. This new medium, however, quickly became the subject of controversy. Many of the comics were considered "undesirable" by parents and teachers because of their violent content. Publishers frequently produced horror, crime, and war stories with explicitly gory illustrations.

The U.S. Bishops became concerned over the possibly harmful effects of such comics on the moral character of young people. In 1946, responding to an appeal by the Commission on American Citizenship at The Catholic University of America, George A. Pflaum of Dayton, Ohio, began publishing a bi-monthly comic book, the Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact for distribution in Catholic Parochial Schools. The Treasure Chest was intended as a remedy to the sensationalism of traditional comics: it contained educational features, narrated the lives of saints, and presented adventure stories featuring realistic characters with what were considered wholesome values, like patriotism, equality, faith, and anti-communism.

By the early 1960s, the Treasure Chest was at the height of its popularity. Some of the top names in comic books provided stories and illustrations for it, including such people as Frank Borth, Fran Matera, and Frank Evers. In 1964, Joe Sinnott, the illustrator of Marvel Comics' "The Fantastic Four," teamed up with writer Berry Reece to produce a story depicting a U.S. presidential election. It was set in the future: the presidential election was supposedly that of 1976, the year on the nation's bicentennial. "Pettigrew for President" lasted for 10 issues, following the campaign trail of the fictional Tim Pettigrew from the announcement of his candidacy through the national convention of his party. The candidate's face was carefully hidden in every panel, until the final page of the final issue of the story, when Pettigrew is finally revealed: the first black candidate for president of the United States!

This site reproduces the entire "Pettigrew for President" series in a digital format. It places this unique comic book story in the context of the 1960s civil rights movement, and provides background information on the creators of the series.

 

See "Background" to begin