Black Faces, White Voices: 7 Animated Black Characters Voiced By White Actors

October 11 2018

If you were a child of the '90s, chances are that many of your favorite Black animated characters were voiced by the extraordinary Cree Summer. But not all Black characters on screen had Black voices behind the scenes.

In a practice akin to blackface, white actors voicing Black characters in animation has been a longstanding practice in the entertainment industry. Opportunities for Black voice actors in the world of animation are historically minimal; it's even more disheartening when Black voice actors can't even get opportunities to voice Black characters.

Here are seven examples of animated Black characters voiced by white actors.

1. PSI voiced by Travis Tuner, Spy Kids: Mission Critical

Credit: Netflix/IMDb Credit: Netflix/IMDb

Earlier this year, rapper Travis Turner garnered controversy when it was announced he would voice the Black character of PSI on the Netflix animated series Spy Kids: Mission Critical.  Turner went on to justify how he was right for the role in an egregiously offensive interview with TMZ.

2. Cleveland Brown voiced by Mike Henry, The Cleveland Show

Credit: 20th Century Fox Credit: 20th Century Fox

On the long running FOX show Family Guy, Cleveland Brown served as the show's most prominent Black character in the largely white dominated town of Quahog. With no sense of irony, FOX hired white actor Mike Henry to be the voice of the character. Cleveland has since been the subject of his own spinoff series, The Cleveland Show. 

3. Carlton Carlson voiced by Hank Azarka, The Simpsons

Credit: 20th Century Fox/Getty Images Credit: 20th Century Fox/Getty Images

One of the few Black characters on The Simpsons, Carlton Carlson was always referred to as "urban Lenny " by the inhabitants of the fictional world of Springfield. He was always voiced by Hank Azaria, whose equally offensive portrayal of Apu, the show's token South Asian character, has been at the forefront of controversy for years.

 

4. Dr Julius M. Hibbert voiced by Henry Shearer, The Simpsons 

Credit: 20th Century Fox/Getty Images Credit: 20th Century Fox/Getty Images

Harry Shearer has voiced many animated characters throughout his career. Chief among them is Dr. Julius M. Hibbert on The Simpsons. Dr. Hibbert was a lollipop-touting Black character who spoke in a tone eerily reminiscent of Billy Cosby.

5. Irwin voiced by Vanessa Marshall in The Grim Adventures Of Billy & Mandy

Credit: Cartoon Network/ Getty Images Credit: Cartoon Network/ Getty Images

If you were a child during the early aughts, chances are you've watched The Grim Adventures Of Billy & Mandy. Irwin Dracula was Billy's sidekick and the show's sole Black representation on screen. Behind the scenes, however, Vanessa Marshall voiced him.

6. Marshmallow voiced by David Herman, Bob's Burgers

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Black transgender character Marshmallow on Bob's Burgers is one of the few Black LGBTQIA representations on television. That's why casting David Herman, a white cisgender male, to voice her character has been at the center of controversy.

7. Missy Foreman-Greenwald voiced by Jenny Slate, Big Mouth

Credit: Netflix/Getty Images Credit: Netflix/Getty Images

In the Netflix animated comedy series Big Mouth, the character of Missy Foreman-Greenwald is the sole lead Black character on the show. She's super smart, adorable, and exploring her sexuality in a healthy, open way that epitomizes #CarefreeBlackGirl---except that she's voiced by white actress Jenny Slate.

Jordan Simon is an entertainment writer with a degree in English from Fordham University, as well as a screenwriter/director with a passion for producing fresh narratives centered around African American representation. As a journalist, his work has been published in VIBE, Gothamist, Idolator and Untapped Cities. You can tweet him @jordansimon78 

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