Prior to the integration of African American characters into comic book universes in the 1960s, African Americans rarely appeared in American comic books. When they did, it was usually in the form of a stereotyped caricature, examples being Whitewash in the Young Allies (Timely) and Will Eisner's The Spirit's sidekick Ebony White. Otherwise, if you were an archaeologist in the future trying to piece together what was going on in mid-20th century America and all you had as evidence was a pile of comic books, you could be forgiven for concluding that everybody in those days was light-skinned. All-Negro Comics 1 (1947) is itself a segregated comic, kind of a comic book version of FUBU clothes. Its stated intended audience is African American, and it is written, drawn, and published entirely by African Americans. Detailed information on the publisher, Orrin C. Evans, can be found here on Tom Christopher's website. It clearly wasn't a commercial success, and perhaps the 15c cover price had something to do with that. The book is extremely rare (the highest graded copy, a 7.5, sold at auction on March 13, 2009, for $10,600) and I don't own a copy (!), although I wish I did. The scan that's 'out there' is incomplete but at least offers a glimpse of this important comic. A more detailed description of the contents is located on Scott Shaw's Oddball Comics website: http://www.oddballcomics.com/article.php?story=2007-02-26 which is where the scans I have appear to have come from.
There are four strips within the book. Ace Harlem is a detective story, and I'll include a few pages here. Lion Man and Bubba is kind of an early version of the Black Panther and set in Africa. In fact there's a detectable similarity or two between this strip and Lee and Kirby's Black Panther concept, at least from the few pages I can see. Dew Dillies is kind of a Water Babies fairy story. But I'll start with the single page that is in the scan available, of Sugarfoot and Snakeoil, the page having the potential at least of being part of a romance story. There's also a gorgeous page of Hep Chicks On Parade, kind of like those one page features in romance comics that Jacque Nodell writes about on her Sequential Crush blog. I just wish the interior scans of this book were higher resolution. The male character anticipating a good meal is Sugarfoot.
You have to love those 1947 fashions. And here's a few pages from the Ace Harlem story. The first couple show the crime being committed and then Ace Harlem showing up at the crime scene:
The next couple of pages show the crooks who committed the crime sharing their spoils, and then Ace Harlem sleuthing them down:
More pages are missing but the end of the story is pretty gruesome:
And here's the back cover with a little more visual information about some of the characters in the book.
Besides All-Negro Comics 1, there are three issues of Fawcett's Negro Romance in 1950, then a single issue of Charlton's Negro Romances 4 (1955), which I believe reprints the second Fawcett issue. These are all segregated comics, however. It isn't until war comics of the early 1950s and then early 1960s that actual integration begins. Finally I'm adding three pages of the Lion Man story to the post to augment Aaron's feature on the history of black superheroes over on his blog Silver Age Gold. Note the idea of Lion Man being a scientist, the treasures of his people's mountain, and the white guy coming to steal it. Besides being an obvious reference to European imperialism, there's a strong parallel with Lee/Kirby's T'Challa (Black Panther), his land Wakanda, and the valuable mineral Vibranium that the explorer Ulysses Klaw comes in search of (he becomes the villain Klaw), as told in the pages of the now legendary Fantastic Four 52-53 and 56. I haven't read the Black Panther predecessor, Waku, Prince of the Jungle, in Atlas's Jungle Tales of the 1950s, so I don't know if there's a parallel there also. I did come across what appears to be the first solo African American hero in comics beyond ANC#1, and that was the western hero Lobo (Dell, December 1965), so I swiped the image from the Wikipedia page it was on and put it here for reference. Lobo is also covered by Aaron in his series on black heroes in comics.