Mykal pointed out an old EC comic that does feature an African American character, although it doesn't show a racially integrated society, only the beginning step towards it. The comic is EC's Frontline Combat 9 from Nov/Dec 1952. It's an all-Civil War special, and the first story in the book is the focus of this post. Titled simply "Abe Lincoln!", key events in the life of Honest Abe leading up to the outbreak of war are narrated by an old country guy sitting in his chair by the fire in his Charleston, South Carolina home. As the tale unfolds we see our narrator only from behind, or the lower part of his body, but never his face. Not, that is, until the last page. He speaks in what is identifiable as a Southern drawl, which has characteristics that might make you suspect he's African American, and that perhaps resonates with movie stereotypes of African Americans from the South. I don't think there was any disrespect whatsoever intended by the the writer, Harvey Kurtzman, in this instance. It reads like a genuine attempt to get at a real African American character, but there's no confirmation of this identity for the reader until the very last panel. The last three panels show the narrator up from his chair and coming out of his front door, but only at the very end does the light reveal his face and we see that he is an elderly African American gentleman. Having witnessed the event that marked the beginning of the Civil War, he prays for Lincoln's well-being.
So the story is a reminder that there was a war fought in this country over the issue of slavery here, and also therefore to establish the freedom which is the cornerstone of the nation, for all Americans. It's also a reminder that there were (and are) both majority and minority people who look past skin color and see the actual person. Against the backdrop of segregation in 1952 McCarthyist America, this story, uncontroversial now, would have been something of a shocker back then. This is an EC comic after all. Remember, there were simply no respectfully depicted African American characters in comics except literally in a handful, four of those being Fawcett's three issues of Negro Romance and Charlton's single reprint issue, Negro Romances 4, which were segregated comics, and a couple more EC comics besides this one. So this issue of Frontline Combat is something of a milestone but kind of out in the wilderness. It doesn't depict an integrated society, but does highlight the event that began the long road to racial equality and integration in the US. Great art as always by Jack Davis, and it includes his very famous action rendering of a Native American, although in seeking to close the divide between African and European Americans with this story, the plight of the First Americans may have slipped by unnoticed here. Still, a somewhat revolutionary comic book story of the sort you expect from EC.