"All Coons Look Alike To Me: The Life of Ernest Hogan, Father of Ragtime"

An Introduction to this comic for 2020

“All Coons Look Alike To Me” was a student project I did back in 2012 at The Center For Cartoon Studies. The controversial title is from the enormously famous 1895 song by the same name, written by Earnest Hogan, the “father of ragtime.”

I’ve always had an interest in the history behind jazz and ragtime music, and an obsession with the history of the racial caste systems in this country that have shaped everything we know. 

Most people have never heard of Ernest Hogan, even though he is considered the father of an entire genre of music, not to mention a genre that has been credited with giving birth to Jazz. We’ve never heard of Ernest Hogan because he was put in the impossible situation of having to choose between musical obscurity and participating in a racist tradition that dehumanized his own race (specifically blackface minstrel shows and the “Coon Song” tradition). Paradoxically, it was his choice that allowed ragtime music to take hold, but it was also what damned him to being locked out of history when white society finally agreed that black face was no longer publicly acceptable. And while Hogan had a choice whether to perform in blackface and to write the songs that he wrote, that choice is not one given in a system of equity, and the pressures Hogan faced were unique to both his time in history and that of a black man in a post-civil war America. 

No one wants to talk about Hogan, or write books about him, because his music had these unacceptable titles and imagery, and it is an American tradition to use black bodies and then discard them or erase them when they are no longer useful. And so there Hogan remains, largely an invisible figure who at once set American music in motion, but also doesn’t really exist by historical standards. 

I’d like us to be more willing to talk and learn about people like Earnest Hogan. 

An important warning: This comic has extremely difficult imagery and language. Please read with caution. If you would ever like to discuss this comic with me, I would love to hear your thoughts and to share a dialogue about it.  

you can email me at andsoluke@gmail.com


My mini-thesis for year one at the Center for Cartoon Studies. Drawn with a hunt 107 nib on Bristol. Colors in Photoshop.