Black History Month: Unrecognized Historic African-American Figures Series pt.5

Vanessa Roache`

Black History month is a celebration and remembrance of Black excellence. It is held in the month of February, and is observed (recognized) by the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands. In this month, we remember all of the African-American figures that contributed to make society what it is today. From well-known public figures such as Martin Luther King to obscure people such as Noble Drew Ali, the founder of the Moorish Science Temple of America in Newark, N.J. It is imperative to remember all of the unrecognized lives that contributed to our ‘freedom’ today.
Part Five of our series…
Clarence Matthew Baker (1921-1959)

Baker was born December 10, 1921, in Forsyth County, North Carolina. Clarence and his brothers Robert and John, moved with their parents to Pittsburgh, PA. Somewhere around 1940 he graduated from high school and moved to Washington, DC where he found a job working for the government.While many of his contemporaries were being drafted into the military over next year, Baker was not eligible for military service as he was found to be suffering from a heart ailment.He moved to to New York City to study art at the Cooper Union School of Engineering, Art, and Design, a privately funded college located in the East Village. He had been an avid drawer and found inspiration from many of his artistic heroes.
He began his art career in 1944 joining the S.M. Igor Studio as a background artist. The Igor Studio was a comics packager  which produced  ready-to-print feature material for comic book publishers. His first assignment was to work as a penciller and the inker on the 12 page Sheena, Queen of the Jungle story in Fiction House’s Jumbo Comics #69. Baker went on to work on other characters which he popularized over the next decade.
In the end, Baker’s weakened heart would betray him. After suffering a stroke in 1957 which affected his artistic abilities, Matt Baker died on August 11, 1959 in New York City, the victim of a heart attack. As one of, if not the first, Black artists in the world of comic books, much of Baker’s career and life was lived under the radar and thus like many men of mystery, his legend has grown over the years.