Oliver Wendell Harrington was the son of an African-American man and Jewish woman from Budapest. He was born on February 14, 1912, in Valhalla, NY. He grew up in the South Bronx, and so he was exposed to different cultures early on. Harrington had a passion for drawing, so in order to let out some of his frustrations about racial discrimination he put in into pictures. He began drawing explicit political cartoons. His first cartoon came out during the early 1930s election. Through his cartoons he urged the #Black voters to drop their loyalty to the Lincoln party and vote the Democratic way; he wanted Blacks to vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies.
Harrington worked in Harlem, long after the Harlem Renaissance, however, the community was still prospering. He fit right in with other influential artists and writers of the era. He found a job working for the Amsterdam News, which was a major Black newspaper in New York at the time. He began a mocking political cartoon section in the Amsterdam News entitled “Dark Laughter.” It was a way for him to record the frustrations that Black people were dealing with throughout the city. One of Harrington’s best known characters designed and created by him was “#Bootsie.” The character depicted an ordinary black man who dealt with everyday racism in American society.
After receiving his Bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1940, Harrington took a full-time job working for the People’s Voice. The People’s Voice was a newspaper that was owned and operated by Black Americans. During his time there, he was able to expose how poorly African-Americans who served in World War II were being treated when returned back home. Harrington found it difficult not to take a political side or be political when came to his artistic work. He covered many topics, and felt that the most profound involvement had to be with the Black liberation struggle.