Racist Cartoon

March 19th, 2009

Racist Picture, 1899

Racist Picture, 1899

The image displayed was created by the United States Printing Company in 1899. The picture portrays a stereotypical view of an African American. The African American’s physical characteristics are modeled after an ape, with dark furry skin and excessively large lips. His facial features show confusion on how to play the trombone while the white man is trying to correct the African American. The African American is also being portrayed as a careless and clumsy person because he is stepping on the violin. The white man also seems to be trying to calm down the African American and keep him under control. The painting also gives the interpretation that African Americans do not know how to dress; the white man is in a nice tuxedo while the African American is in scruffy non-matching clothes. All of these are stereotypes society tried to apply to African Americans in an attempt to prevent them from becoming socially acceptable in our culture.

After the Civil War, many cartoon pictures were created such as the one displayed to ridicule the freed African Americans. Society still did not except African Americans despite the abolishment of slavery. These humiliating images were displayed in widespread newspapers, magazines, and posters.

The Sons of the South currently houses the racist image. The company’s website provides historic resources about slavery before and after the Civil War. The image is under the section called “African American Art” on the web page. The painting is oil on canvas.

Link Source


March 19th, 2009



This is a political cartoon from “The Mascot” newspaper published on September 7, 1888 in New Orleans. Through out the 19th century many Americans were angry at the influx of immigrants coming over from Southern and Eastern Europe.

            The Italian immigrants were discriminated against in both the north and south. Often working in northern sweatshops for little pay or on southern farms doing the hard work of former slaves. There were also discriminated against because of their skin color. Coming from Southern Europe most Italians had darker skin colors and we often treated no better the freed slaves, and frequent victims of lynching.

            The above cartoon is an example of the discrimination the Italians faced in America. The top part of the cartoon shows how Americas feel about the Italians, crowding the streets and apartments, and starting fights. This stereotype has often been encouraged, even today, as Italians being violent people and participating in organized crime. The bottom of the cartoon gives ways to get rid of the perceived problem of Italian immigrants, either “dispose” of them or arrest them.

           During this time the Italians faced a large amount of discrimination in New Orleans, especially by the Irish immigrants already living there. In 1890 the many people in New Orleans blamed the Italians for the murder of David Hennessey. Hundreds of Italians were arrested and even though they were eventually released, eleven Italians were lynched by a mob. 



Today this cartoon can be found in the New Orleans Public Library.



What Will He Do?!

March 19th, 2009

This 1898 political cartoon from the Minneapolis Tribune (author unknown) depicts President McKinley with a “savage child,” labeled as The Philippines. McKinley is trying to decide whether to keep the child or give it back to Spain, which the cartoon indicates is akin to throwing it off a cliff. An anthropomorphized world looks on, indignantly.

The little savage child representing The Philippines depicts the typical image many Americans had for groups deemed to be racially inferior. The author made the native a child, referencing the child-like tendencies those classified as inferior were supposed to possess. It also is a nod to the United State’s attitude at the time towards countries they were annexing: that these countries (such as Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico etc) needed to be taught how to be civilized.

The end of the nineteenth century signaled the beginning of the United State’s imperialism. In the 1898 Treaty of Paris, the United States received the Philippines from Spain. The above cartoon is a question many Americans had as to what the government would do with the nation: Take it under its wing and bestow up them the gifts of civilization and democracy or throw them into the bottomless Catholic pit of Spain? This is where the man-earth figure in the image comes into play. The Minneapolis Tribune’s cartoonist uses this figure with his inquiring look to indicate that the correct action would be to save the savage child from the ‘Pit’ of Spain. This reflects the feelings at the time of animosity towards Spain due to the Spanish-American War and Catholicism.  Obviously, giving The Philippines independence was not an option for either the cartoonist or the American government. When it became obvious that the U.S. wasn’t going to give the native Filipinos their own government, revolt broke out. [source]

Though hotly debated, the Philippines was finally given independence through the Hare-Hawes Cutting act in 1945, of course not before the country had been physically and economically devastated by World War II. [source]


Future President Taft was Governor-General of the Philippines. Here he is on a water buffalo: 

This object is a painting of an Osage scalping. It was painted by John Mix Stanley in 1846 and was titled “An Osage Scalp Dance”. In the painting Osage natives surround a white woman and child. The Osage are dressed elaborately, carry weapons, and many wear full body paint. The white woman holds her hand out in supplication while the baby clings to her. The sky behind the figures is dark and stormy. This painting was a part of Stanley’s American Indian exhibit displayed in Cincinnati Ohio in 1846. It was noted as entry number 80 and in the exhibition catalog it was accompanied by this note:

All Tribes of Wild Indians, scalp their captives, save the women and children, who are treated as slaves, until ransomed by the United States Government. On returning from the scene of strife, they celebrate their victories by a scalp dance. The Chiefs and Warriors, after having painted themselves, each after his own fancy, to give himself the most hideous appearance, encircle their captives, who are all placed together. Thus stationed, at a tap on their drums, they commence throwing themselves into attitudes, such as each one’s imagination suggests as the most savage, accompanied by yells for the purpose of striking terror into the hearts of their captives. This picture represents the scalp dance of the Osages, around a woman and her child; and a warrior in the act of striking her with his club; his chief springing forward and arresting the blow with his spear.

According to the Smithsonian’s website, the chief that is stopping the scalping is wearing a Presidential Peace Medal. These medals were given out by American explorers into the west on behalf of the President. The use of these medals in American art was very popular during the 1850’s and 1860’s. By painting the chief adorned with the Peace Medal stop the slaughter of the captives, Stanley was showing the beneficial, peaceful influence of the United States on the savage Native Americans.

This painting would have fed directly into American fears of Native Americans. The group of strong, war-like natives surrounding the helpless woman and child would provoke a visceral response in white Americans in the 19th century. Continuing into today, a scalping is something we stereotypically associate with “savages”. By calling his painting “An Osage Scalp Dance,” Stanley went straight to the heart of that fear, combining the “exoticness” of Native dances and the violent image of scalping.

The painting acts as a visual captivity narrative. Captivity narratives were popular in American throughout the 17th through 19th centuries. The narratives began Puritan documents about kidnapped settlers who were saved by their faith. As time went on, the stories became thrillers more concerned with scaring audiences than influencing their souls. Stanley’s painting is more like the latter, as the opening sentence of the exhibit’s catalog shows; however, the painting also preaches the good influence of American expansionism into the western United States.

The painting was made by John Mix Stanley, an American painter known for his landscapes and Native American pictures. The picture is an oil painting on canvas. It can be found in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, under the National Portrait Gallery, in Washington D.C.

[For more information on captivity narratives, see “The Significances of the Captivity Narrative” by Roy Harvey Pearce (American Literature, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Mar., 1947)).

For more information of Indian Peace Medals, see “Strategies of Appropriating the West: The Evidence of Indian Peace Medals” by Klaus Lubbers (American Art, Vol. 8, No. 3/4 (Summer – Autumn, 1994)).]

Louis Agassiz commissioned photographer J.T. Zealy to create a series of daguerreotype in 1850. This imaged was called “Renty,” for the name of the slave depicted in the picture. Renty was an African-born slave who was owned by B.F. Taylor, a planter from Columbia, South Carolina.

The daguerreotype is made on a quarter plate of glass or metal and measures 8.9 x 6.4cm. The daguerreotype is currently being held at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University.

Agassiz commissioned these images to use as scientific visual evidence to prove the physical difference between white Europeans and black Africans. The primary goal was to prove the racial superiority of the white race. The photographs were also meant to serve as evidence for his theory of “separate creation,” which contends that each race originated as a separate species.

Zealy’s series includes fifteen daguerreotypes, which were divided into two sections. The first section features fully nude images showing front, side and rear views. This method demonstrates the physiognomic approach, which focused on recording body shape, proportions and posture.

Rently’s image belongs to the second series that focused on heads and torsos. This method demonstrates the phrenological approach, which concentrate on the size and shape of the head.

Source: Wallis, Brian. Black Bodies, White Science: Louis Agassiz’s Slave Daguerreotypes. American Art, Vol.9. No. 2(Summer, 1995), pp. 39-61.

This photograph of eleven Chiricahua Apache children was taken on November 4, 1886, shortly after the children’s arrival at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. General Pratt established the boarding school in 1879 to “civilize” Native American children through complete assimilation. Whether they volunteered or were coerced into attendance, separated from their families and denied permission to wear their own clothing or speak their native languages, many of the Carlisle students experienced profound confusion and sadness at the loss of all that was familiar to them. The children in this photo made the long trip from their homes in the Southwest to Pennsylvania via Fort Marion, Florida.

The photo was taken my John N. Choate, a local Carlisle, non-Indian, commercial photographer. Choate acted as the official school photographer from 1879 until his death in 1902, and his works remain the only known photographs of the school. Choate took a great deal of ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of students, emphasizing the profound physical changes, including haircuts and new clothing, the children underwent during their first weeks at Carlisle. Choate knew how to manipulate his images as well, photographing these children first barefooted and outdoors to emphasize the “uncivilized” aspects of their character. Their clothing is unkept and their hair uncombed. The second photo is indoors, and the children wear clean, matching outfits. Their transformation is exaggerated by the simple setting of the photo.

Choate also came to campus to capture images of the school band or the children at work in the various workshops designed to teach technical skills. Indian family members visiting their students frequently found themselves the subject of Choate’s photos as well.

Several factors made Choate’s work possible. The first was the relatively recent development of albumen paper, which allowed for dramatically easier copying of photographs through the use of negatives. The second was the increasing popularity of photography itself in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Choate sold his photography in the form of souvenir cards for display, capitalizing on the growing middle class’s interest in images of ‘exotic’ and interesting people and places previously unavailable to them. General Pratt used Choate’s images for other purposes. He frequently sent pictures to students’ parents still on reservations, to recruiters, and to government agents who might secure greater funding for the school. The before and after pictures, especially, became a prominent means of propaganda employed by Pratt to display the great success Carlisle had in transforming its students.

The photo fell into the collection of Gen. Nelson A. Miles before his heirs donated it to the Museum of the American Indian, where it is currently housed.

The ‘after’ companion features the same eleven Apache children and was taken by Choate in March of 1887, approximately four months after their arrival at Carlisle.

Irish and Germans, Oh My!

March 10th, 2009

American 'Know-Nothing' Party Cartoon, 1854 (engraving)

Above is a cartoon published by the Know-Nothings Party in the 1850s. During the nineteenth century many immigrants were coming to America. A large proportion of the immigrants coming over were from Ireland and Germany. This influx of immigrants angered many “native” Americans.

            Most people think about racism in the nineteenth century as an issue of color. However, this is not entirely true. Many United States citizens were incredibly racist toward both Irish and German immigrants. The Irish and Germans were stereotyped as hard drinkers who would come in a steal the jobs of hard working Americans. The Know-Nothings also felt that the Irish and Germans would “steal” votes for the Democratic Party would often used their large political machines to control elections.

            The other racist view expressed in the cartoon is the way the immigrants were associated with alcohol. The Irish were frequently depicted drinking whisky and the Germans were depicted as drinkers of Lager. The Know-Nothings felt that these two groups of people were hard drinkers and unacceptable members of American society. 

            Most of the Know-Nothing party was centered in the northern cities of New England and New York. It was in these cities where the German and Irish immigrants mainly settled so it makes sense that the party would be focused in those areas. Most of the Know-Nothings fears were caused by the influx of cheap labor that was entering the work force. These fears would then manifest themselves in racist, stereotypical views.



Today the picture is currently held at the Bridgeman Art Library and can be seen online at the above site.