During the first year of his presidency, Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908–1973) made the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 a priority, honoring slain President John F. Kennedy’s (1917–1963) legacy. The legislation continues to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin and dominates the memory of American life fifty years ago. Herblock had long championed equality and civil rights for African Americans through his political cartoons.
After Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, however, Herblock did not attack Johnson or his policies. His attention was drawn to the Republican Party and its internal discord between the moderate course favored by Nelson Rockefeller (1908–1979) and the right-wing politics of Barry Goldwater (1909–1998). Their rancor came to the fore in the 1964 presidential campaign. Herblock also emphasized the need for gun control to protect America’s children. Having quit smoking after a heart attack in 1959, the cartoonist also frequently used his pen as a weapon against the tobacco industry. Internationally, Herblock understood the different interpretations of communism in China and the Soviet Union, which led to increased political tension in the world.
Exhibition dates: April 5, 2014–September 13, 2014
Herblock suffered a major heart attack in 1959 and quit smoking during his recovery. In 1964, his bold image of a coffin-shaped cigarette box dramatically linked smoking to death. As a reformed smoker, he raised public awareness of the negative health issues related to tobacco use. Here, he reinforced the message of a lengthy report issued by a special advisory committee to Public Health Service Surgeon General Dr. Luther L. Terry (1911–1985). The report documented how cigarette smoking can cause cancer and other debilitating illnesses.
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“HEY, LISTEN—FOR JUST A LITTLE MORE WE CAN GET A REAL ONE”
By depicting two children looking at both a sales catalog for real guns and a store window display of toy guns, Herblock pointed out the continuing problem of unregulated mail-order purchases of firearms. Just four months earlier, President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, using a weapon that he had ordered through the mail. Connecticut Senator Thomas J. Dodd (1907–1971) attempted to introduce legislation to inform local police of mail order purchases but found no congressional support.
“Hey, Listen—For Just a Little More We Can Get a Real One,” 1964. Published in the Washington Post, February 21, 1964, as “Hey, Listen—For Just a Little Bit More We Can Get a Real One.” Reprinted in 1971. India ink, graphite, crayon, opaque white, and overlay over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (002.06.00)
[LC-DIG-hlb-06044] © Herb Block Foundation
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DARKNESS AT HIGH NOON
After learning that Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong (1893–1976) had called Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971) a “capitulationist” for his policy of peaceful co-existence with the West, Herblock expected a showdown between the two great Communist leaders. Khrushchev retorted “There are some people in the world calling themselves Communists, . . .who do not consider it important to strive for a better life, but call only for the making of revolution.” Both men heavily affected countries under their sphere of influence, but no outright war between China and the Soviet Union occurred.
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APPROACHING MOMENT OF TRUTH
Herblock represented the use of a filibuster to prevent a vote on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with a bullfight metaphor evoking the sword of cloture as the weapon to end the non-stop talking. Herblock anticipated the Senate vote to pass the legislation. However, Republicans refused to vote for cloture until after the California primary, when Senator Barry Goldwater had secured enough votes for his nomination. The Senate, feeling enormous public pressure, finally approved the legislation and sent it back to the House on June 19, 1964.
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Republican senators Thomas H. Kuchel (1910–1994) of California and Jacob K. Javits (1904–1986) of New York, feared that nominating Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for the 1964 presidential election would be suicide for the Republican Party. The liberal Republicans promised to sit out the election if Goldwater received the nomination. Herblock echoed the fears of a Washington Post editorial, “If the Republican Party shrinks into its own extremist, right-wing fragment, it will be dangerous to our whole political system.”
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HALF SLAVE AND HALF FREE
Herblock waited for Senate approval of the 1964 Civil Rights, portraying the bill as a slave in limbo, half-free by the House of Representatives approval of the legislation on February 10. He used the visual metaphor of a ball and chain to represent Southern resistance to the Senate filibuster that began on March 9. On June 10, 1964, three months later, the filibuster ended when the majority of senators agreed to vote for cloture. President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964.
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“AND, OVER HERE, THE ENEMY —PEOPLE”
After an incident in which police used fire hoses and clubs to beat back a student demonstration on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Herblock accused law enforcement of targeting African Americans as the enemy. On February 26, 1964, police attacked students from the historically black Maryland State College (now University of Maryland Eastern Shore) when they marched to desegregate restaurants in the town of Princess Anne. Fifty-seven students were injured from dog bites, hosing, and billy stick wounds. The local Student Appeal for Equality (SAFE) invited Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Chairman John Lewis (born 1940) to visit and report the police brutality.
“And, Over Here, the Enemy—People,” 1964. Published in the Washington Post, February 28, 1964. Graphite, India ink, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (007.06.00)
[LC-DIG-hlb-06049] © Herb Block Foundation
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“THIS IS THE END OF ANTI-CIVILIZATION AS WE’VE KNOWN IT”
Herblock showed pro-segregation advocates as jailers with instruments of torture. After the Supreme Court ruled against the School Board of Prince Edward County on May 25, 1964, West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd (1917–2010) refused to vote for cloture to end the filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Prince Edward County schools, located southwest of Richmond, were closed for four years to prevent desegregation. By 1964, ten years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, 10% of schoolchildren south of the Mason Dixon line still experienced desegregation.
“This Is the End of Anti-civilization As We’ve Known It,” 1964. Published in the Washington Post, May 26, 1964. Graphite and India ink over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (008.06.00)
[LC-DIG-hlb-06228] © Herb Block Foundation
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HANDWRITING ON THE WALL
Taking his quote directly from the Supreme Court decision that ruled against the closing of public schools in Prince Edward County, Virginia, on May 25, 1964, Herblock warned that local tactics could not undo the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that supported integration. Angered by the actions of the Virginia segregationists, Herblock later wrote that the denial of education to African American children for four years “stands as one of the most wanton and cruel acts ever performed by any political machine in the entire history of our nation.”
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Baseball was one of Herblock’s favorite visual metaphors for the game of politics. Here he used the slide into home plate as a celebration for the end of the 54-day filibuster that delayed passage of the Civil Rights Act in the Senate until June 19, 1964. The House agreed to the Senate’s language and ended the era of Jim Crow legalized segregation. President Johnson signed the bill into law on July 2, 1964.
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