Dead Man's Hand -

Interesting story, but what’s with the illustration that accompanies this story? Is the black guy sitting on Wild Bill’s lap the ace of spades? And is that a hypo sticking out of Bill’s arm? And what’s with the dead bird?

Actually, I’m most interested by another question or issue: The political correctness of referring to black folks as spades. Back in the 60s, amongst hippies I knew, it was considered O.K. to use the term “spade.” I believe there was even a well known Haight-Ashbury characters with the moniker Super Spade.

Many years later (like a year or two ago), I was astonished to find that many of my young coworkers–blacks and whites-- considered “spade” a derogatory term, apparantly not as nasty as several others that could come to mind (the N-word, etc.) but still a term no aware person, politically or otherwise, would use.

Would anyone like to chime in on this one? My youthly impression was that “spade” simply was a hip way to describe skin color and did not have any negative connotations.


Thanks for providing the URL of the article. We appreciate a link, but it only makes one if you put the URL in the text of your message rather than the title.

The way I see it, he’s holding a black ace, not necessarily a spade.

My pre-60’s memories of the term “spade” is in a class with the “n” word…also, terms that were spit out with it were “Palm Beach Indian”, “coon” and “jungle bunny”.

I never heard “Palm Beach Indian,” that fer sure. But I also didn’t relate the black guy sitting on Wild Bill’s lap to a black ace. I must have had spades on the brain, especially with the deuce of spades at the end of the piece.


Look at what the black guy’s wearing.

From the first time I heard the term “spade” used to describe an African-American, I knew it to be derogatory. I never heard it used in any other way.

It IS a 20th century term, I’m pretty sure. But I can’t conceive of it being used in the 60’s by whites other than in a derogatory fashion. You could always be right, though, about some in CA. in the 60’s.

I daresay it could have been a local usage, or local to one cultural group,as in my earlier reference to Super Spade. Super Spade, AKA Bill Powell, was a pot dealer in Haight-Ashbury whose murder marked the end of the era of good vibes. After his death and other incidents of bad karma, a ceremonial The Hippie is Dead parade was held to signal that end.

One other reference is the entry for “Spade” in The Language of the Hip (

Spade: Old term for Afro-American. Replaced by the word, Black.

Peace - out.

I noticed the drawing immediately, but Cecil’s comments made me forget my curiosity until I saw this posting.

Dead Man’s Hand: Black Aces and Eights.

It’s a black fighter pilot in one hand (ace). The other hand is carrying a turkey drumstick (ate) and a hypodermic syinge (possibly injecting an eight-ball, which is either 1/8 ounce of cocaine or a mixture of cocaine and heroin). Black aces and eights. Get it?

I’ll be blowed. Most of these cartoons are much more transparent. On the other hand, it was a challenge that obviously I didn’t take up or rise to.


Just when you think Slug is easy, he flips on you. Or at least he used to.

Nevertheless, it might bear mentioning that Slug seems to have goofed on this one anyway, “black aces” aside. That’s Buffalo Bill Cody, not Wild Bill Hickock. Cody wore that style of moustache and beard, and was fair haired. Pictures of Hickock show him dark haired, with a moustache, but no beard. Idealized paintings and drawings often showed him fairer haired, but still with only a moustache:

I would note, for clarity’s sake, that Cecil does not use the term “ace of spades” in the column, which dates back to 1978.