Oliver "Ollie" Wendell Harrington (February 14, 1912 – November 2, 1995), of multi-ethnic descent, was called by Langston Hughes, "America's greatest African-American cartoonist," an assessment that has stood the test of time. An outspoken advocate against racism and for civil rights in the United States, Harrington requested political asylum in East Germany in 1961. He lived in Berlin for the last three decades of his life.
Early years 
Born to Herbert and Euzsenie Turat Harrington in Valhalla, New York, Harrington was the eldest of five children. He began cartooning to vent his frustrations about a viciously racist sixth grade teacher and graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1929. Immersing himself in the Harlem Renaissance, Harrington found employment when Ted Poston, city editor for the Amsterdam News became aware of Harrington's already considerable skills as a cartoonist and political satirist. In 1935, Harrington created Dark Laughter, a regular single panel cartoon, for that publication. The strip featured the debut of his most famous character, Bootsie, an ordinary African-American dealing with racism in the U.S., whom Harrington described as "a jolly, rather well-fed but soulful character." During this time, Harrington also found time to undertake a degree (which he was unable to complete with the outbreak of World War II) in Fine Arts at Yale University.
During World War II, the Pittsburgh Courier sent Harrington to Europe and North Africa. In Italy, he met Walter White, executive secretary of the NAACP, and after the war, White gave Harrington the job of creating the organization's public relations department, where he became a visible and outspoken advocate for civil rights. In that capacity, Harrington published "Terror in Tennessee," a controversial expose of increased lynching violence in the post-W.W. II South. Given the publicity Harrington's sensational critique garnered, Harrington was invited to debate with U.S. Attorney General Tom C. Clark on the topic of "The Struggle for Justice as a World Force", during which he confronted Clark for the U.S. government's failure to curb lynching and other racially motivated violence.
Harrington left the NAACP and returned to cartooning in 1947, but his prominence brought him scrutiny from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Hoping to avoid further government scrutiny, Harrington moved to Paris in 1951. In Paris, Harrington joined a thriving community of African-American expatriate writers and artists, including James Baldwin, Chester Himes, and Richard Wright, who became a close friend.
Harrington was shaken by Wright's death in 1960, suspecting that he was assassinated as part of the ongoing campaign of harassment directed towards the expatriates by the American embassy, and requested political asylum in East Germany in 1961. He spent the rest of his life in East Berlin, finding plentiful work and a cult following illustrating and contributing to publications such as Eulenspiegel, Das Magazine, and the Daily Worker. Harrington had four children. Two daughters are U.S. nationals; a third is a British national. All were born before Harrington went to East Berlin. His youngest child, a son, was born several years after Harrington married journalist, Helma Richter.
- Dark Laughter: The Satiric Art of Oliver W. Harrington, ed. M. Thomas Inge (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993).
- Why I left America and Other Essays, ed. M. Thomas Inge (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993).
- Laughing on the Outside: The Intelligent White Reader's Guide to Negro Tales and Humor (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1965). [With Philip Sterling and J. Saunders Redding].
- Bootsie and Others: A Selection of Cartoons (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1958).
- Hezekiah Horton (Viking Press, 1955). [with Ellen Tarry]
- Terror in Tennessee: The Truth about the Columbia Outrages (New York: "Committee of 100", 1946).
- "Cartoons by the late Ollie Harrington tell it like it was - and is," Ebony Magazine, February 1996
- Greene, Larry A. and Anke Ortlepp (eds.) (2011). Germans and African Americans: Two Centuries of Exchange. Jackson, Mississippi: University of Mississippi Press. ISBN 978-1-60473-784-4. p. xiv.
Further reading 
- "Harrington, Oliver W.". American National Biography. Oxford University Press. Subscription needed.
- "Oliver W. Harrington." Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 9. Gale Research, 1995.
- "Oliver W. Harrington." Notable Black American Men. Gale Research, 1998.
- PBS The Black Press biography
- The African-American Registry
- Spartacus biography
- Oliver Harrington Biography, The Civil Rights Struggle, African American GIs, and Germany
- Bibliography at The Comics Reporter