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In honor of Black Friday, I present the first appearance of an African-American in Gotham City in Batman #13 (1942). Batman had been on the scene for over three years before he encountered this fellow, but that's not to say that he had never interacted with minorities before. Batman had already battled several Chinamen, all of whom were intrinsically evil yellow monsters with limited magical abilities in as true a case of art imitating life as you're apt to find.
It should be noted that this large-lipped, bug-eyed fellow is a porter on a passenger train traveling between Gotham City's Grand Central Station and California. Therefore, he's several steps better off than most of the jobless, cut-throat Caucasians that fill Batman's exploits. And he is aware that something strange is afoot on the train, making him far more clever than his clueless boss: the bumbling, white conductor.