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Pokenia Comic Strip Collection

Identifier: MGHL-00041

This collection includes original pen and ink drawings on board mainly dating from ca.1939.


  • Creation: 1930-1950
  • Other: Majority of material found within ca.1939
  • Other: Acquired in 2019

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions to access.


1.00 linear feet

2 linear feet

16 items

Biographical / Historical

Spencer Thornton Banks was an African American commercial artist. He was born on June 5, 1912 in Clarksdale, Mississippi and moved to St. Louis where he graduated from Sumner High School and attended Webster College.

Before enlisting in the Navy, Banks’ art had been exhibited at the City Art Museum in 1939 and 1941. He later took classes and exhibited his work at the People’s Art Center, the first fully integrated arts community center in St. Louis which he helped found in 1942. He also taught at Washington Technical High School.

Banks published two strips in the St. Louis Argus starting around 1939, one being Pokenia. It is unknown if either of his comic strips were syndicated. Banks was one of only a few known early African American artists creating a comic strip featuring an all Black cast.

Pokenia was published in the genre of a soap opera in the 1940s. The protagonist, Pokenia, always caused a stir with her appearance that caused the other women she encountered to bristle and take note while the men offered her compliments. Pokenia worked a flower counter with fellow employees and patrons, all of whom were African American. She eventually develops a romantic relationship with the store's bookkeeper, Eddie. Pokenia is one of the earliest comic strips to feature an African American female lead.

Arrangement Note

The items are arranged sequentially. The contents of the collection are as follows: Series 1: Original Artwork

Method of Acquisition

The collection was purchased by the Modern Graphic History Library in July 2019.

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Andrea Degener in November 2019.

Pokenia Comic Strip Collection
Andrea Degener
Description rules
Language of description

Revision Statements

  • 2019: The finding aid was entered into Archon by Andrea Degener and Erin Lewis in October 2019.
  • 08/19/2020: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Andrea Degener

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Dowd Illustration Research Archive Collecting Area

Andrea Degener, Interim Curator
West Campus Library
7425 Forsyth Blvd
Clayton MO 63105 US
(314) 935-5495