Lesson Plans - The Voice of the Political Cartoon
For this lesson, students will analyze a lithograph from the post-Civil War era. The document, entitled “The Man That Blocks Up The Highway” (1866), offers an excellent yet complex overview of the public sentiment for President Andrew Johnson during Reconstruction. With vibrant prose and satire, the cartoonist, John L. Magee, displays a wide-range of viewpoints, including those of the ex-Confederate, freed slave, carpetbagger, Radical Republican, France and Great Britain. This source also helps students gain contextual information about the political history of the United States in the post-Civil War period.
Students will be given the lithograph to analyze and asked what it means. Using analytical skills and background knowledge on the topic, students will deduce the meaning of allegory, metaphor, and reference through guided questions from the teacher. In the end, students will have a solid foundation of the political nature of post-Civil War Reconstruction as well as the skills necessary to analyze political cartoons during any given time period. As an assessment, students will construct their own political cartoon based on a current political issue.
PRIMARY SOURCES USED in LESSON:
(Card Catalog # 741.973 / M191.2)
What challenges did Andrew Johnson face post-Civil War? Why would this lithograph be printed? Who printed it? What biases does the author/publisher have? Who is represented in this lithograph? Why? What is being said in the “text bubbles”? What do they mean? Judging from the lithograph ONLY, what is the public’s sentiment toward President Andrew Johnson? Why is this lithograph entitled “The Man That Blocks Up the Highway”? What contextual information can we gather about the political situation post-Civil War? Are their any other historical sources that justify the author’s claims about Andrew Johnson? What major political issues exist today (local, U.S., world)? Why is a political cartoon a powerful form of expression?
Students will identify the persons depicted in the lithograph and the demographic they represent. Students will identify the context of this piece (post-Civil War/Reconstruction Era) and political nature of the time. Students will identify President Andrew Johnson and know basic information regarding his Presidency, i.e. when he was President, challenges he faced, accomplishments/failures of his Presidency
Students will analyze the content of a political cartoon and identify the viewpoints captured in this satirical form of expression. Students will compare information in this source to other sources and argue whether the position of the author is justified or not. Students will construct their own political cartoon on current political issues
CORRELATION WITH HISTORY STANDARDS FROM the 2003 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORY AND SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK
MA FRAMEWORK STRAND:
U.S. History I: The Revolution through Reconstruction, 1763-1877 Grade 12 Elective: American Government
MA FRAMEWORK UNIT/THEME ADDRESSED:
The Civil War and Reconstruction, 1860-1877 Purposes, Principles and Institution of Government in the United States of America
MA FRAMEWORK LEARNING STANDARD(S) ADDRESSED:
USI.41 Explain the policies and consequences of Reconstruction. (H, C)
A. Presidential and Congressional Reconstruction
B. the impeachment of President Johnson
C. the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments
D. the opposition of Southern whites to Reconstruction
E. the accomplishments and failures of Radical Reconstruction
USG.3.12 Use a variety of sources, including newspapers and internet web sites, to identify current state and local legislative issues and examine the influence on the legislative process of political parties, interest groups, grass roots organizations, lobbyists, public opinion, the news media, and individual voters.
MA FRAMEWORK CONCEPT AND SKILLS STANDARD(S) ADDRESSED
GRADE(S) AND SUBJECT(S):
Grades 8-12, U.S. History I
12th Grade Elective, American Government, Comparative Government
NUMBER(S) AND DESCRIPTION(S):
7. Show connections, causal and otherwise, between particular historical events and ideas and larger social, economic and political trends and developments. (H, G, C, E)
8. Interpret the past within its own historical context rather than in terms of present-day norms and values. (H, E, C)
10. Distinguish historical fact from opinion (H, E, C)
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND/CONTEXT ESSAY:
On the throes of the Civil War lay a daunting task. A country, divided and wounded by war, would have to come back together again. This time period, from 1865 to approximately 1877, is known as Reconstruction. Leading the United States during this tumultuous time, by way of an assassin’s bullet in 1865, was the “old-fashioned southern Jacksonian Democrat,”1#_ftn1 Andrew Johnson.
After delivering the fatal gun-shot to President Abraham Lincoln’s head, John Wilkes Booth leaped to the Ford’s Theater stage, shouting the phrase “Sic Semper Tyrannis!” The phrase, meaning “so always to tyrants,” would prove to be ironic, considering Lincoln’s next in line, Vice President Andrew Johnson, would be the first President in United States history to be impeached 2#_ftn2. President Andrew Johnson would use his executive powers in ways that raised the ire of Congress and the divisive American public. His violation of the Tenure of Office Act (approved over Johnson’s veto in 1867), by removing Senator Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War (a supporter of the radicals) and replacing him with Adjutant-General Lorenzo Thomas, led to the formation of the Senate court of impeachment on March 5, 1868 3.#_ftn3 Although Johnson escaped a guilty verdict by one vote 4#_ftn4, his powerful executive decisions would arguably stall Reconstruction’s progress and seal his legacy as one of
America’s worst Presidents.
Two particular vetoes of Johnson’s that led to such political animosity were those of the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill on February 19, 1866 and the Civil Right’s Bill on March 27, 1866 5.#_ftn5 Johnson felt these issues should be decided by the states and thus vetoed them on the grounds of Constitutional violations. Johnson also issued the Proclamation of Amnesty
on May 29, 1865 that, among other things, pardoned former Confederates as long as they swore allegiance to the Union 6.#_ftn6 Both would eventually pass by large majorities in the Senate. However, it was apparent that Johnson’s political agenda seemed more bent on restoring the antebellum status quo and social power relations in the South rather than rebuild anew.
These actions brought many different opinions from many different groups to the fore. Representatives of these groups include the radical Republican, carpetbagger, scalawag, Ex-Confederate, and Freedmen. As an easy reference for teachers conducting this lesson plan, a list of these political groups is given below. Also refer to the Salem in History website for further information on the references in the lithograph 7:#_ftn7
Radical Republican: Sought to use strong federal measures to advance African American civil rights and economic independence. They also sought to “purge the South of disloyalty once and for all” by passing the Tenure of Office Act and disallowing Southern states readmission to the Union without the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment 8.#_ftn8 Republicans,
having a stronghold in Congress during this time, could use this power to pass laws over the President’s veto.
Freedmen (Freedmen’s Bureau): A bureau formed under the auspices of the federal government in 1865 that sought to bring opportunity and civil rights for the freed African American slaves. Johnson opposed granting the vote to former slaves and felt they should remain in subservient field jobs for white landowners. In southern states, such as Mississippi, Black Codes were instilled that often denied blacks the right to vote, serve on juries, or even own land.
Ex-Confederate: Johnson, throughout his political career, was seen as the champion of poor white farmers. Johnson’s Reconstruction plans sought to help the poor white farmer by not allowing civil rights to former African slaves and maintaining their social status as field workers. Although he advocated denying the vote to wealthy Confederates, Johnson allowed individuals to come to the White House to beg for pardons which he often granted.
Scalawag: Former southern white Whigs, who were reluctant secessionists during the war, allied with northern Republicans who supported government subsidies for railroads, banking institutions, and public improvements. Southern Democrats, who disdained any alliance with the North, labeled this group “scalawags.” The label derives from the term for a scrawny, useless type of horse on the Scottish island of Scalloway.
Carpetbagger: This term describes Northerners who moved South to invest in land and become planters in the staple crop economy. The term comes from bags made from carpet scraps that Northerners used. Southerners felt carpetbaggers made the move to “take advantage of the region’s devastation and confusion” 9.#_ftn9
#_ftnref44. By the Radical Republican, Edmund G. Ross, whose surprising decision is profiled in John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. New York: Perennial Classics edition, 2000.
#_ftnref77. Information for the easy reference guide was provided by: Jacqueline Jones et al, Created Equal: A Social and Political History of the United States—Brief ed. (New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2005), 356-367.
MATERIALS LIST AND PRE-ARRANGEMENTS/PREPARATION NEEDED
Overhead Projector Transparency with Primary Source White copy paper Colored pencils Projector for computer (if classroom has internet access)
Students will be introduced to this particular cartoon after studying the major components of American Government. They will also have prior information and content knowledge from United States history to understand the context of the lithograph and the purpose of political cartoons in general. Students will define the terms below.
Roman Tribune (to understand the reference in the cartoon)
Civil Rights Bill of 1866
Proclamation of Amnesty
Note: The given activities are for three 45-minute classes. For an 80-minute block schedule, plan for two blocks to complete the activities.
-Place transparency of the lithograph on the overhead. Students will be introduced to the lithograph and asked to write their initial reactions, using the guided questions given (see worksheet).
-Students will be asked to look at the cartoon and answer the questions on “Level 1”.
-After going through this section together and reviewing their observations, ask them to move on to “Level 2”. Discuss the students’ “Level 2” observations.
-Students then must go on to “Level 3” and answer what each “text bubble” means. Ask what each person represents. Then ask what each “text bubble” refers to.
-If you HAVE internet access in the classroom, type the website below to see what each “text bubble” means*.
-If you DO NOT HAVE internet access in the classroom, bring the class to computer lab, or have students check their answers for homework using the website below*.
-Hand out the rubric for the political cartoon assignment and explain the directions.
-Students will create their own political cartoon based on current political issues. Have newspapers on hand to help them get ideas for their cartoon.
-Have students present their work and explain their cartoons. Another option would be to put them on display in the classroom and before they are presented, have students write down a few they liked and why. Also ask what issue they feel the cartoon is referring to. This could open up the possibility to discussing current events and getting students debating a given topic.
ASSESSMENT/STUDENT PRODUCT or PERFORMANCE:
Using their analytical skills of political cartoons, students will be asked to create their own on a current political issue, i.e. gas prices, Bush and Iraq, issues with Iran.
Students can be introduced to many different political cartoons, all dealing with different levels of complexity for this time period. The focus of this assignment is their ability to construct a political cartoon using modern day political issues. While they are still being asked for information regarding the significance of The Man That Blocks Up the Highway, it is really testing their ability to construct their own satirical political cartoons.
For excellent resources on historical cartoons see:
POSSIBLE EXTENSION ACTIVITIES:
Student can continue analyzing current political cartoons throughout the year in newspapers or magazines such as the New York Times, Boston Globe, or in local newspapers. They offer powerful messages and mental images of current or historical political issues.
CROSS CURRICULAR/INTERDISCIPLINARY LINKS/ACTIVITIES:
A possible interdisciplinary activity would be to join with an art class where analysis of political cartoons/posters as an art form could take place. Also, production of a political cartoon or poster on current political issues could serve as an interesting subject for an art gallery display.
SOURCES AND RESOURCES
PRIMARY SOURCES USED iN LESSON:
This lithograph offers a wide-range of opinions and multiple references to Andrew Johnson and his controversial vetoes of Congressional action during Reconstruction. Though broad in its scope and obscure in its references, the work offers a powerful picture of the general opinion of the carpetbagger, scalawag, Freedmen, radical Republican, Ex-Confederate, French and British toward Andrew Johnson. To locate the original lithograph in the Phillips Library collection, request the image using its card catalog number (741.973 / M191.2)
WEB RESOURCES USED IN LESSON:
Click on the “text bubbles” on this site for text/image explanations
SECONDARY SOURCES USED TO CREATE LESSON
Kennedy, John F. Profiles in Courage. New York: Perennial Classics, 2000.
Good information and an interesting viewpoint on the Radical Republican, Edmund G. Ross, whose decision saved Johnson from being dismissed from office during his impeachment.
White House website that provides a good summary of Johnson’s background and presidency.
This link of the HarpWeek website provides primary source articles on the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, (this one focuses on Johnson’s Amnesty Proclamation). Links to other articles concerning Johnson are listed as well.
This source provides excellent background information on Johnson and the Reconstruction era.
Jones, Jacqueline et al. Created Equal: A Social and Political History of the United States—Brief ed. New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2005.
Recent textbook on social and political history of the United States. It is an excellent source to obtain background information; more for college level studies of United States history.
Monk, Linda. The Bill of Rights: A User’s Guide. Close Up Publishing, 4th ed., 2004.
This source provides an excellent background on the Bill of Rights, and its application in law throughout U.S. History. There is also a section that provides information on the 14th Amendment.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS AND/OR STUDENTS: