Monday, March 5, 2012

Discovering Aaron McGruder & The Boondocks in 1999

National debut for The Boondocks
Of all the new writers, artists, and thinkers that I discovered during my first year of graduate school (1999-2000), Aaron McGruder proved to be one of the most important. Aside from McGruder, almost all the other writers I followed were serious and for academic purposes. But I read The Boondocks for entertainment purposes and because of the politics of the comic strip.

I likely noticed some similarities between the situation of the comic strip's protagonist Huey Freeman and my own circumstances. Perhaps I was drawn to a character who, like me, had recently from a black environment to a primarily white one. A figure immersed in "black consciousness" was also, of course, appealing to me.

The Boondocks made its syndication debut in April 1999. McGruder and his strip did not come onto my radar until sometime during the fall of 1999, after I graduated from Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi, and moved to State College, Pennsylvania to attend Penn State University. So I discovered The Boondocks at a pivotal transitional moment--from undergrad to grad school, from a small HBCU to a large white university, from South to Northeast, etc.    

More notably, the comic strip appeared at the close of the 20th century, positioning McGruder to become a major "new" black artist heading into 21st century. By the end of 1999, few 25-year-old black men, notwithstanding rappers and professional athletes, drew the kind of attention that McGruder was with The Boondocks.

Over the years, Aaron McGruder and his lead character Huey Freeman would become highly visible black public intellectuals.          

Related: Aaron McGruder Week 

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