Sam Milai of the Pittsburgh Courier


September 22, 2008 - December 31, 2008


Reading Room Gallery
27 W. 17th Avenue Mall
Columbus Ohio

Sam Milai (March 23, 1908-April 30, 1970) was an artist and cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Courier, an influential African American newspaper, for thirty-three years. He was a centrist who disdained all forms of extremism. The cartoons in this exhibition were found by his granddaughter in a suitcase in her mother’s attic and donated to the Cartoon Research Library. The Sam Milai collection also includes correspondence, clippings and photographs related to Milai.

Sam Milai of the Pittsburgh Courier documents Milai’s mature work during the last seven years of his life. Reading these cartoons from the perspective of almost four decades later, we sense both the hopes and the frustrations that the African American community experienced during the 1960s.

Milai was loyal to Lyndon Johnson, and some of his pro-Johnson cartoons are housed in the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. He won the National Newspaper Publisher’s Association Russwurm trophy for the best cartoon eight times during his career. In addition to his editorial cartoons, Milai created a series titled Facts about the Negro that celebrated the accomplishments of people of color. During the late 1930s, he also contributed a comic strip to the newspaper. He taught part time at Pittsburgh’s Ivey School of Professional Art from 1964-1967 and was teaching full-time at the Pittsburgh Art Institute at the time of his death.

Dr. Rebecca Wanzo, Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies and African American and African Studies, will discuss Sam Milai’s cartoons on Monday, October 27 at 4:30 pm in the seminar room adjacent to the Cartoon Research Library. This event is free and open to the public.