Political Cartoon Analysis

By: Kaitlyn Leahy


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Sharecroppers (1865)

In this political cartoon there is an African American sharecropper working for a wealthy white man. A sharecropper is a person who works for larger plantation owner, and receives half or one third of the crop, although this is not enough to support all the costs of living, so they are in a cycle of poverty. In the background there is the white plantation owner shown casually reading the newspaper, while the sharecroppers are hard at work, I think this is ironic as the African Americans are working very hard but still do not earn fair wages.

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Migrant Farmers (1960s)

In this political cartoon there are a group of migrant farmers with their leader, Cesar Chavez, who is trying to help get better wages and working conditions for the migrant farmers. Since many of the farmers in the cartoon are bent over with unhappy expressions, I think they symbolize the unfair and unbearable living conditions and unfair pay. These political cartoons are very similar, since they both symbolize farmers struggling from unfair wages.


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Ku Klux Klan (1874)

The first cartoon has a member of the Ku Klux Klan over an African American. I think this symbolizes how the KKK had the power over the African Americans.They are also holding a skull over the African American family which symbolizes that the Ku Klux Klan had the power to kill them, as they did many times to African Americans. One of the labels on the political cartoon also says “Worse than slavery,” I think this means the KKK was so powerful and would terrorize the African Americans so badly that it was even worse than slavery. There is also another label above the skull that reads, “The union as it was. This is a white man’s government.” This quote shows the Ku Klux Klans main belief: that African Americans should not be involved in government. Overall I think this political cartoon represents the KKK’s power and their beliefs.

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ISIS (2014)

In this cartoon a group of scorpions are shown invading a globe used to represent the world. In this political cartoon the scorpions are supposed to represent the modern terrorist group called ISIS, as shown in the label above them. Also the leader on the scorpions is carrying a knife which shows the method in which ISIS uses to gain power: violence, this method is also very similar to the Ku Klux Klan’s. These two political cartoons have very similar meanings because they are both two terrorist groups who use violence as power and are trying to gain control.


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Literacy Test (January 18, 1879)

In this first cartoon a white man is writing that an African American man must have an education, in order to vote, or pass a literacy test. In the background there is an African American man sitting down. The irony of this situation is that the white man is able to vote, although he spelled many of the words he was writing wrong. If it were a black man writing this he would not be able to vote, this shows how unfair it was for African Americans and how they should have had equal rights. I believe that the white man is a symbol of the rights that whites had but African Americans did not have.

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Poll Tax (1942)

In the cartoon above there is a building, which is labeled “Vote Here,” with a crowd of people standing outside waiting. Another of the labels shown is “poll tax,” which is blocking the entrance, so only people who could pay could vote. Outside of the voting building there are people, as labeled in the cartoon, “10 million Americans who haven’t got the price.” This cartoon shows that poll tax prevented many people from voting and it was also unfair, since everyone deserves the right to vote. The irony of this cartoon is that every American should be able to vote, although not all could with the poll tax. Both of these cartoons share similarities because they both represent obstacles that prevented people from voting.


Homer, Winslow. "The Great Labor Question From a Southern Point of View." Harper's Weekly 1865: n. pag. Print.

"Literacy Test." Harper's Weekly. N.p.: n.p., 1879. Print.

"Migrant Farmers." N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

Nast, Thomas. "Ku Klux Klan." Harper's Weekly 1874: n. pag. Print.

Sack, Steve. "ISIS Swarm." N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2015.

Seuss. "Poll Tax." N.p.: Field Publications, 1942. Print.