Samuel R. Joyner artwork collection
Held at: Temple University Libraries Special Collections Research Center [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Temple University Libraries Special Collections Research Center. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Samuel R. Joyner is among the small number of African American cartoonists in the United States. Born in Philadelphia in 1924, he received early attention and publication credits in the Tribune Jr. pages as a cartoonist at the age of 7 in the Philadelphia Tribune. At the time, he was the paperboy for the newspaper when his drawings were recognized by publisher E. Washington Rhodes. This would prove to be the early catalyst in his striving towards a career as an artist. However, in Joyner’s high school years, his teachers did not believe that he would make it as a paid African American commercial artist, and, subsequently, attempted to persuade him in the direction of a career in landscaping, a career where he could still utilize his artistic creative mind and abilities, they said. Slightly wounded by this discouragement, Joyner enlisted in the United States Navy after graduating from high school during World War II. Upon his return to the United States, he enrolled into the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art (now University of the Arts) with the support of the G.I. Bill to enhance his skills to pursue a career as a commercial artist. He completed his studies, graduating in 1948.
His experience with racism and discrimination, primarily in the Navy, served as the backdrop for the kind of artwork he desired to produce. However, after graduating from college, he was unable to find employment. Eventually, he succeeded in selling his work to the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Courier. While they celebrated his work, he began to receive recognition for his talent from other organizations and companies. He then realized that he was not fully valued for his creations as he was not allowed to attach his name to his drawings nor draw any non-white characters. Not until the publication of Color Magazine in the 1950s by a local Philadelphian businessman, I. J. K. “Alphabets” Wells, was Joyner able to use his skills in the service of African American social and political uplift as an art director. Here he was able to gain national attention with his social, cultural, and political commentary and satire to inspire other African Americans to engage in activities and dialogues toward the defeat of injustice.
In the 1960s, he opened and operated a print and graphics shop with his wife and four children. Joyner furthered his education by taking additional coursework at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and enrolling in the Teacher Certification program at Temple University. From 1974 until his retirement in 1990, he taught art classes and graphic communications at Rhodes Middle School (North Philadelphia) and Bok Technical High School (South Philadelphia). His impact on his students was evidenced in his students’ achievements in winning art prizes as documented in the local Philadelphia newspapers. Joyner's career in the arts was widely celebrated by many from his entrepreneurial endeavors to education. He has more than 50 years in publishing with thousands of publication credits.
Over the years he would become a recognized “visual voice” for African Americans as represented in mass-circulated magazines and newspapers. His work has been published in over 40 different publications. He has received many awards and recognitions from Temple University, the National Newspapers Publishers Association, and the Houston Sun Times to name a few. In 2002 the Urban Archives at Temple University featured a showing of his work in an exhibit entitled “Exhibitions of Samuel Joyner: A Cartoonist.” As one of the most celebrated African American cartoonists, his work has influenced many generations of African American comics and commercial artists.
The Samuel Joyner collection includes photographs, original art work and sketches (and photocopies), posters, signs, newspapers and clippings, newsletters, one book of African American illustrations, and ephemera. This collection spans 60 years, from 1947 to 2005. The majority of the material is dated in the 1990s. The order of the collection was rearranged from the original order/condition, which seemed to have been the result of the exhibition organized by Temple University’s Urban Archives in 2002. All series are arranged chronically and, where necessary, in alphabetical order according to folder titles. Additionally, the majority of the items are housed in protective sleeves, as well as acid free folders for preservation purposes.
The included images reveal how influence Joyner was by the sociopolitical happenings in society and how that then served as inspiration to challenge racism, discrimination, exploitation, and American political culture to give a critical “visual voice” to a range of frustrations in the African American community. Although a cartoonist, Joyner’s use of his skills and craft as a means to challenge social ills and to inspire and transform the African American community was, in many ways, similar to many other African American artists who had been active in the many social and political movements in the 1950s and 1960s. Therefore, these images and associated inscriptions are filled with the “fire” of African American critiques of hegemony and white supremacy.
Series 7, "Publications," includes four types of publications: a book, newspapers and clippings, newsletters, and magazines. The book is an autograph copy of Portia George’s (illustrated by Robert L. Jefferson) Gifts of Our People: An alphabet of African American History, which feature well known African American historical figures. The two newsletters feature a sample of Joyner’s cartoons with an accompanying blurb about his work and/or life experiences. As stated above in the background note, Samuel Joyner worked as a cartoonist/art director for several publications which include the African American Magazine (“Joyner’s Funnies”) and The Messenger (“Joyner’s Drawing Board”). Several issues of each publication are included in the collection. The other magazine included here is the 150th edition of The Comic Journal which features an article (biographical note) written by Joyner entitled “My life as an African-American cartoonist.” The newspapers represent the few African American newspapers that were willing to publish Joyner’s work, such as The Buckeye Review, The Dallas Post Tribune, The Houston Sun, The Milwaukee Times, The Philadelphia Tribune, Sun Life (The Houston Sun), and Take Pride! Community Weekly. Many of the newspapers are not complete issues but include the pages and/or sections of the papers that contain Joyner’s cartoons. The bulk of the publications series are newspaper clippings that also feature the cartoons drawn by Samuel Joyner or articles written about him. These clippings are from the following list of publications: The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, Young People, Color magazine, The Philadelphia Independent, The Review/Chronicle, The Philadelphia Tribune, The illustrated Ledger, The Northwest Dispatch, The Houston Sun, The Orland Times, The Milwaukee Times, The Buckeye Review, Sun Life, The Messenger, New Journal and Guide, and Take Pride! Community Weekly.
While these items are not less significant in detailing the life and works of Samuel Joyner, they are few in number, and therefore, they are labeled as “miscellaneous.” Included is this series is a photocopy of the front cover of the 1984-1985 Bulletin of Adult Education Activities for the School District of Philadelphia’s Division of Adult Education, a certificate Excellence in Journalism Award from the Houston Sun, a letter from the director/coordinator of the Pan-African Community Education Program at Temple University, Joyner’s resume, an incomplete calendar that displays the months of May and June, and an item of clothing that advertises one component of Joyner’s business owned and operated with his wife and kids (t-shirt design). The remaining items for this series consist of the material used in the Urban Archives exhibition in 2002 and an ink bottle and paint brush once used by Mr. Joyner.
II. Art Work
The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
Finding aid entered into the Archivists' Toolkit by Garrett Boos.
- Temple University Libraries Special Collections Research Center
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Weckea D. Lilly
- Finding Aid Date
- The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project. Finding aid entered into the Archivists' Toolkit by Garrett Boos.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Temple University Libraries Special Collections Research Center with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.
The majority of the photographs (N=15) depicts Samuel Joyner with his art work at various exhibits and events. Two of the photographs were taken at The Baltimore Museum of Art, two at the Annual Philadelphia International Art Expo, two with individuals affiliated with Temple University’s Pan-African Community Education Program (i.e., Yumy Odom, former director), and the remaining pictures are copies of the photos used in The Philadelphia Tribune’s article entitled “Drawing Pride: African-American illustrator and cartoonist Samuel Joyner reflects on his career of ‘being invisible’.”
This series contains three images. The first item in the folder is a drawing of a man and woman holding hands surrounded by city buildings. Another is a water-color painting of a man and woman holding hands atop a hill surrounded by nature. The final piece of art in this series is a drawing (color markers) that depicts an African American woman and man singing and playing the guitar and is inscribed with “Celebrate Black Music.”
The prints feature African American caricatures and are inscribed with bible scriptures — three are from the book of Psalms and one from St. Luke. The other print depicts a man and woman holding Christmas presents.
The four posters included in the collection represent four different organizations and/or themes: J. F. Street campaign flyer, the Tindley Temple Church Campaign Fund, the Betsy Ross House, and a promotional poster for the zoo.
This series consists of a sign displaying an event for the Bok Tech School and two business signs for Mr. Strickler.
There a total of 37 original hand drawn and pasted sketches by Samuel Joyner. Also included here are 53 photocopies of the original sketches. These are the sketches that are also published in the magazines, newspapers, and clippings.