Political Cartoon Analysis

By Sam St John

Reconstruction Era: Social

After the end of the Civil War and at the beginning of Reconstruction, the nation underwent major social changes. One of the most drastic changes was that many black men went from being enslaved to gaining the right to vote. Many blacks were elected for government positions. The way they filled empty seats in the government is similar to how black athletes filled in different positions in sports leagues. The African American calmly places his ballot in the box while white men wait behind him in a civilized fashion. This clearly moves toward the ideal of equality, as now white and black men can vote. However, these new laws still do not include women, so the nation is nearing the ideal, but isn't quite there. Andrew Johnson and a man following him do not seem as happy. They are glaring at the black voter. Johnson is holding a rolled-up poster that shows the words "Veto" and "Suffrage". Obviously, the artist disliked Johnson and did not agree with his view on politics.
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Modern Era: Social

In 1947, just a few days before the season, Jackie Robinson was called up to play in the major leagues. He had already made his name known by being the first black man to play in the minor leagues, but he now had the opportunity to completely change the sport. Up to this point, white and black citizens played in separate leagues. Jackie Robinson hated segregation and racism, but was warned to keep his mouth closed on the field. Robinson is drawn sliding feet-first through the color line. He was well-known for his ability to get on base, steal bases, and score runs, which is why he is drawn sliding. Robinson was often threatened in the form of notes, and jeers from the crowd. In 42, a movie made in honor of Robinson, Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, encourages Robinson by telling him that he saw a 'little white boy' imitating his batting stance. Also in the movie, a group of white men approach Robinson and his wife, and tell him that they completely support what he is doing. Especially after he continued to perform well, he gained the respect of Americans of all races.
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Reconstruction Era: Economic

In this cartoon, the Klu Klux Klan has hung two carpetbaggers. A 'carpetbagger' was the term used by white southerners that referred to white northerners that moved to the South after the end of the Civil War. Carpetbaggers would do so in order to make money or gain political power. They took advantage of the Reconstruction laws, causing them to be resented by many southerners. In a way, this cartoon is a warning. It was likely made so northerners would be forced to think twice before taking their bags and traveling to the southern states. It could also be taken as a way of depicting the Klu Klux Klan in a negative way. Although the nation has technically been reunited, there is still a feeling of bitterness during Reconstruction.
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Modern Era: Economic

Made very recently, our current president, Barack Obama, is shown walking around the beach with his jobs detector. While most people would search for coins and anything worth keeping with a metal detector, Barack Obama is busy trying to find jobs for people. So far, the effort has proved to be futile. The message of the cartoon is that the economy is struggling, causing many people to be out of work. At the moment, the situation isn't getting any better. Because of these troubles, the nation is moving further from their opportunity ideal. There are less job opportunities available. Less people now have the chance to work and make money for them and/or their families.
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Reconstruction Era: Political

At this point in time, many people were upset that Andrew Johnson took over in office after Lincoln's assassination. This cartoon was made after President Andrew Johnson vetoed yet another act. He is shown kicking a desk down the stairs. In the picture, he is definitely portrayed in a negative way, especially by his facial expression. He looks strict and not too friendly. It exaggerates the size of Johnson, indicating that he may have too much power. The Freedmen's Bureau are the tiny people desperately trying to hold on to the desk, but many have lost their grip. The dramatic difference in size emphasizes the fact that Johnson is too powerful, and isn't using it well. This moves the nation further from their ideal of democracy. Although Congress was able to overrule some of his vetoes, they were unable to impeach him. Johnson also made many decisions that hurt the Reconstruction effort.
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Modern Era: Political

Even after slavery was abolished, African Americans still had many more obstacles to face. After the end of Reconstruction, Republicans and African Americans began to lose power and representation in the government, especially in the South. Many new laws were passed, such as black codes, that were designed to limit the rights of African Americans. The two paths are very exaggerated, in order to show what the two different citizens had to go through to receive their rights. The white citizen simply had to walk in a straight line, while the black citizen had an obstacle at almost every space. The obstacles often stopped his progress, or even forced him to move back. This relates back to Lincoln's assassination and Andrew Johnson. Andrew Johnson was one setback for black rights. He was very opposed secession, but did not like African Americans at all. Had Abraham Lincoln lived, it is likely the American Dream Game could've been finished much quicker.
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