Beloved black cartoon characters deserve more recognition from Fat Albert, Princess Tiana, The Proud Family, Frozone, and Miles Morales. Get ready to be entertained, educated, and inspired! Animation has the incredible power to captivate audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
As the industry continues to evolve, animated shows and films are becoming increasingly diverse, showcasing characters from various races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
In this article, we’ll explore the most impactful and inspiring black animated characters that have left their mark on the animation world and continue influencing a new generation of animators and fans.
Cartoons With Black Characters
Can you name the beloved black cartoon characters that have captured your heart? It’s okay if you struggle to recall many. Despite the popularity of characters like Huey Freeman, Cleveland Brown, Suga Mama, and Michiko Malandro, many more deserve recognition.
The representation of minorities and diversity in cartoons has come a long way from the days of minimal representation and stereotypical portrayals. Gone are the days of white, cisgender, heterosexual characters being the sole focus, created solely by white men.
Today, the animation world thrives with fantastic diversity, and these beloved black cartoon characters are just the tip of the iceberg. Get ready to add some new favorites to your list!
You can read an interesting piece published in The Guardian – A short history of race in animation.
31Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
Final episode date: August 10, 1985
First episode date: September 9, 1972
Filmation released “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” in 1972, based on the experiences and friendships of the affluent comedian and TV star Bill Cosby. Besides creating the show, Cosby provided many characters’ voices and made bookend cameos in each episode.
It featured exaggerated caricatures of Black teenage boys living in impoverished and troubled inner cities; it was entertaining and educational.
A moral anecdote and advice were given to viewers not to shy away from the real-world problems and difficulties faced by African-Americans living in poverty and disenfranchised neighborhoods at the time.
30Princess Tiana (The Princess And The Frog)
Friends: Prince Naveen, Charlotte La Bouff, Mama Odie,
Foes: Dr. Facilier, Reggie, Darnell, and Two Fingers,
Princess Tiana is the first African-American princess in the franchise and the ninth official Disney Princess.
Originally named Maddy, her character has light brown eyes and is a friendly, fun-loving, and dedicated young woman. Compared to other princesses on the timeline, she is the only princess who appears to be living in recent times.
Additionally, she was the first Disney princess whose mother was alive but whose father was dead. In addition, she was the last Disney princess to be created using 2D animation.
While representing the race, Disney avoided accidental racial stereotypes.
29Craig Of The Creek
Craig of the Creek is an animated series that has captured the hearts of audiences everywhere, airing on Cartoon Network. The show, which premiered in 2018, follows Craig, an adventurous young boy exploring the wild and untamed world of the nearby creek with his best friends, Kelsey and JP.
What sets Craig of the Creek apart from other shows is its diverse cast, including prominent black characters who play a vital role in the series.
The lead character Craig is voiced by the talented black actor Phil LaMarr, and Kelsey, Craig’s spunky friend, is voiced by Mika Abdalla, a black actress.
Doc McStuffins is a beloved children’s animated series aired on Disney Junior in 2012. The show follows the adventures of Doc, a young black girl with a unique talent for fixing broken toys and stuffed animals.
With the help of her trusty tools and her friends, Doc runs a clinic in her backyard, where she diagnoses and treats her patients’ ailments.
One of the standout features of “Doc McStuffins” is its representation of a black female lead character in a nurturing and positive light.
27The Proud Family
First episode date: September 15, 2001
Network: Disney Channel
Animated family sitcom “The Proud Family” is Disney’s animated series that gained massive popularity. The show followed the escapades of Penny Proud, a 14-year-old rambunctious daughter (voiced by Kyla Pratt) growing up.
After only two seasons, an animated movie served as the series finale. Disney has resurrected the show as “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder,” which will premiere on Disney+ on 23 February 2022.
It features a 16-year-old Penny dealing with new teenage issues and dilemmas while maintaining the same lighthearted humor and comedy as the original.
26Frozone (The Incredibles)
Released: 2004 Disney/Pixar
The Incredibles features iconic actor Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone, the memorable cartoon character. As a black cartoon character, he paved the way for other black superheroes to follow.
As an incredible superhero in his own right, he is close friends with the Parr family.
25Miles Morales – Spiderman
Fictional universe: Marvel Universe
First appearance: Ultimate Fallout #4 (August 2011)
Place of origin: Brooklyn, New York City (Earth-1610)
Miles Morales, also known as Spider-Man, is a black cartoon character who debuted in the comic book series “Ultimate Fallout” in 2011.
He was created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli and is the second Spider-Man character in the Marvel Comics universe after Peter Parker.
Empowering Black Children through Animation: The Representation of Black Characters in Cartoons
24Jodie Landon – Daria
First appearance: “The Invitation” (1997)
It’s impossible to overstate how ahead of her time Jodie was. Her wit, intelligence, and ability to get her friends out of difficult situations made her the ideal friend.
In Daria, Jodie Abigail Landon appears frequently. The daughter of Andrew and Michele Landon, as well as the sister of Evan and Rachel, is a member of the Landon family. She attends Lawndale middle School.
Jessica Cyndee Jackson voices the character.
23Miranda Killagllen – As Told by Ginger
As Told by Ginger featured Miranda as one of the “mean girls,” but I loved watching her personality develop to become kinder by the end of the story.
Despite her meanness, I was impressed with her quick and accurate sarcastic comebacks. Her looks were always adorable.
22Trixie Carter – American Dragon
Trixie Carter was the only one who could bring their friends back to earth! She was loyal to her two best friends and helped protect the magical community as her designated “mom friend”-often called “Mama Trixie” by her closest circle.
As a talented skateboarder and cheerleader with high aspirations, she effortlessly balanced being both a tomboy and a feminine.
21Penny Proud – The Proud Family
Introducing Penny Proud from “The Proud Family,” a trailblazer in the world of black animated characters.
When the show first aired on Disney Channel in 2001, it introduced audiences to a 14-year-old Penny, growing up in an African American household and facing the challenges of adolescence.
As one of the first black female lead characters in an animated series aimed at a younger demographic, Penny, by many, is considered one of the best black cartoon characters.
But what sets Penny apart is her relatable and realistic portrayal. With a distinct personality, interests, and experiences, she’s more than just a character; she’s a friend.
20Susie Carmichael from Rugrats
We wouldn’t be where we are without Susie Carmichael, would we? She was the perfect example of a Jane of all trades. She, a singer, and dancer, always stopped Angelica’s antics, and she was multilingual.
Even as a toddler, Susie was the perfect “mom friend” like many Black cartoon counterparts—an energetic, friendly, and optimistic person. Susie often guides the other babies and, as an honest and intelligent friend, she is someone they can trust.
19Storm From X-Men
Notable aliases: Ororo Iquadi T’Challa, Ororo Munroe
Storm from the X-Men franchise is one of the most popular and beloved black cartoon characters. First appearing in Giant-Size X-Men #1 in 1975, Storm quickly became a fan favorite for her charismatic personality, powerful abilities, and fascinating backstory.
Storm, also known as Ororo Munroe, is a mutant able to control the weather. She was born in Kenya and grew up as a street thief before discovering her powers and joining the X-Men.
Throughout the franchise, Storm has been depicted as a fierce and capable warrior and a wise and compassionate leader.
18Michiko Malandro From Michiko & Hatchin
First Appearance: Farewell, Cruel Paradise
The list would not be complete without at least one anime character, and Michiko is undoubtedly my favorite Black anime character. A badass, she escaped a prison that is said to have been the world’s most brutal.
Her strength and determination enabled her to take on people who were much more significant than her.
In addition to being the show’s main character, her character was also inspired by the late R&B singer Aaliyah.
17Libby Folax from Jimmy Neutron
Friends: Cindy Vortex; Jimmy Neutron
Family: Mr. Folfax, Mrs. Folfax
In my opinion, Libby is the best cartoon character ever. As a descendant of Queen Hasabataslapya, she was considered Black royalty.
Besides being stylish and tech-savvy, she also had some coolest gadgets (sorry, Jimmy).
Aside from having impeccable taste in music, Libby had a great sense of humor and a diverse library of hip-hop, funk, and R&B.
16Valerie From Josie and The Pussycats
In addition to being a talented musician, Valerie was also considered the “book smart” member of her group, excelling in math and mechanics.
I enjoyed watching a brilliant character who wasn’t styled in a stereotypical “nerdy” way.
Besides playing multiple instruments, Valerie was equally fashionable and intelligent.
15Foxxy Love From Drawn Together
Foxxy Love is a hilarious and bold character from Drawn Together, a parody of Valerie from Josie and the Pussycats.
The point of her character is meant to poke fun at Black stereotypes, but she represents a sexually fluid character, something we rarely see in cartoons.
One of Foxxy’s most exploited character traits is her sexuality; she has kinky and promiscuous characteristics. Even though Foxxy is mostly seen with men, she has been shown to have and enjoy relations with other women.
14Gerald Martin Johanssen
In the Hey Arnold! television series and its first film, Gerald Martin Johanssen plays Arnold’s best friend, a role he also played in Hey Arnold’s The Jungle Movie.
He is almost always present when Arnold’s latest adventure takes place.
As a natural counterbalance to Arnold’s optimistic attitude, he often serves as the voice of reason in the group of fourth-grade friends.
TV show: The Magic School Bus
The sixth book in the original series introduces Keesha Mrs. Franklin as one of the leading students in the Frizzle class.
12Token Black – South Park
Parents: Linda Black, Steve Black
Notable aliases: Token Black, Tupperware
Played by: Adrien Beard
Creators: Matt Stone, Trey Parker
Original airdate April 12, 2000
As the only black child in Craig’s gang, Token Black stands out as one of the most compelling characters. Except for the cameos of his family, his name represents the phrase “token black guy,” which means racial diversity.
In a society dominated by whites, he is often portrayed as a calm, level-headed guy who makes rational decisions and an intelligent guy who stands up for himself and his rights.
A daughter of the Fish Stew Pizza restaurant, Kiki Pizza is the twin sister of Jenny Pizza. Unlike her sister, who shows little interest in the family business, she helps her father in the restaurant.
Despite her classic comical style and sassy side, she has a very open mind regarding magic.
10Cleveland Brown Jr.
The Cleveland Show
The Cleveland Show is a spin-off from the popular animated series Family Guy; It focuses on the adventures of Cleveland Brown, one of the few black male lead characters in the world of animation.
The show debuted on Fox in 2009 and ran for four seasons, following Cleveland as he moved from Quahog, Rhode Island, to Stoolbend, Virginia, with his new wife and stepchildren.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
First appearance: Original Series: “The Boy in the Iceberg” (2005); The Legend of Korra: “The Voice in the Night” (2012)
His parents were Chief Hakoda and Kya of the Southern Water Tribe, and he was a Water Tribe warrior.
After his mother died and his father left for war, Sokka was raised by his grandmother Kanna and his younger sister Katara. When Sokka was a young boy, Hakoda and all the men in his tribe left to fight the Fire Nation; despite his desire to accompany his father on the mission, Sokka was not permitted to join them.
8Mr. T – Mister T
As a world celebrity in the 80s, Mr. T exploded in popularity. His appearances on television and in movies are numerous and memorable.
Mister T was also a classic animated series starring Mr. T. In this show, Mr. T coaches a gymnastics team and solves mysteries on the side.
It only lasted a few seasons, but black cartoon characters were forever changed by it.
TV Show: Danny Phantom
Get ready to be inspired by one of animation’s trailblazing black female leads, Valerie Gray, from “Danny Phantom.” This dynamic and confident character stole our hearts as she stood up for what was right and navigated the spooky ghost-hunting world with grace and strength.
As the school’s ghost-hunting squad captain, Valerie served as both a love interest and a rival to the show’s main character, Danny Fenton. She brought depth and nuance to the series, facing challenges ranging from ghostly threats to romantic struggles to family problems.
Valerie’s impact as a black female lead in animation cannot be overstated. She represents a positive and empowering image of black girls and women, showing they can be strong, confident, and competent.
TV Show: Fairly Odd Parents
A. J. is one of Timmy’s two best friends – a brilliant, rich kid who is not very good at social skills and, consequently, not very popular.
Chester’s Trailer is located near his family’s big house, and they are very wealthy. Mr. Crocker’s class is the only one he has ever passed, and his friends consider him a genius.
His science fair project also wins. As he flaunts his superior intelligence with arrogance, friction arises between him and his less intelligent friends.
Even though he has the potential to be in an Ivy-league university by the age of ten, he remains in the same grade as Timmy.
TV Show: Teen Titans Go!
Besides being a superheroine in the Teen Titans Go franchise, Bumblebee is also the former leader of Titans East.
A solo hero, Karen Beecher is her real name, and she left both titans to work on her own. In addition to being a positive, enthusiastic, and happy person, she also enjoys seeing others’ positivity.
Her love for Starfire is based on her optimism and brightness. Besides being excited to join the Titans, Bumblebee is also the only one who voices her own opinion, as the rest are usually interrupted by Robin.
Although she appears excellent, she is weak because her rage is uncontrollable. She explodes with rage when she gets worked up, and no one can handle her afterward.
Codename: Kids Next Door is a beloved animated series aired on Cartoon Network from 2002 to 2008. The show follows the adventures of a group of kids who form a secret organization to fight against adult oppression and defend children’s rights everywhere.
One of the standout characters of “Codename: Kids Next Door” is Numbuh 5, a black girl who serves as the team’s tactical expert and weapons specialist. Numbuh 5 is a confident and capable character known for her quick thinking and strategic skills.
She is also fearless and is always willing to put herself in danger to protect her friends and the children of the world.
3Cleveland Brown – Family Guy
Cleveland Brown is one of the most beloved black male cartoon characters and a staple of the hit animated series Family Guy.
In both shows, Cleveland appeared as a recurring character and as the show’s main character.
One of the unique features of Cleveland is his blend of traditional family values and modern attitudes. He is a proud husband and father, who values his family above all else, but also a confident and self-assured individual who is not afraid to stand up for his beliefs.
Valerie Brown is a fictional character from the animated television show Josie and the Pussycats. She is one of the main characters in the show and is depicted as a young black woman who is a member of the titular band. The show first aired in 1970 and was a part of the Archie Comics franchise.
Valerie was groundbreaking in her representation of black women in animated television, as she was one of the first black female characters to have a prominent role in a cartoon. She was strong, confident, and talented as a role model for young black girls.
Gerald Johanssen from Hey Arnold! is a beloved black cartoon character who appeared in the popular Nickelodeon animated series. The show, which ran from 1996 to 2004, followed the adventures of Arnold, a football-headed boy who lived in the inner city with his grandparents and friends.
Gerald was one of Arnold’s closest friends and was often seen alongside him on various misadventures.
Gerald was depicted as a confident, charismatic, and streetwise young man who was a role model for Arnold and other young viewers.
He was a natural leader known for his quick wit, humor, and ability to get things done. Despite his rough exterior, Gerald was also a loyal friend and was always there for Arnold when he needed him.
What was the First Black Cartoon Show?
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids is often cited as one of the first black cartoons in television history.
The show, which Bill Cosby created, debuted on CBS in 1972 and was based on Cosby’s own childhood experiences growing up in North Philadelphia.
The show followed the adventures of Fat Albert and a group of his friends, all of whom were black children from the inner city. The animated characters were well-rounded, with distinct personalities and interests, and were portrayed as regular kids who faced the same challenges and experiences as any other children.
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 has a long history of creating beloved animated characters, and in recent years, the company has made strides in representing diversity in its films and shows. One notable example is Tiana, the main character in the 2009 film “The Princess and the Frog.” Tiana is a black princess and the first Disney princess of African-American heritage.
The film is set in 1920s New Orleans and follows Tiana as she embarks on an adventure to break a spell that has turned her into a frog. Along the way, she meets Prince Naveen, and the two work together to return to their human form. Tiana is a strong, independent, and hardworking character, and her story highlights the importance of perseverance and determination.
- 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!