Library of Congress
Political Cartoons: Finding Point of View
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Activity One (One Class Period)
- Begin class with a discussion about political cartoons, based around the following questions and possible
- What is a political cartoon?
A political cartoon is a cartoon that makes a point about a political issue or event.
- What topics do political cartoons address?
Could include economics, politics, social issues/events, prominent individuals.
- How can you tell what the message of the political cartoon is?
By observing and analyzing the images and text.
- What is a thesis?
A main idea put forward for discussion, such as in a paragraph, an essay, or a cartoon.
- What is point of view?
A person’s belief or judgment on an issue.
- How might point of view affect a political cartoonist?
A cartoonist will be guided by his or her point of view. Cartoonists might only express their own beliefs on
an issue, or they might take the point of view of others into consideration.
- Introduce the concept of primary source analysis to the students. Distribute the Primary Source Analysis Tool (PDF 79 KB) to each student and explain that they will use this handout to analyze a political cartoon. Tell
them that the key to primary source analysis isn’t finding the correct answer, but asking the most
Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher’s guide Analyzing Political Cartoons to focus and prompt analysis and discussion. Distribute or display a recent political cartoon on an issue of current interest. Model for students the process of inquiry-based primary source analysis using questions from each column as a guide.
Students should record the responses on their individual handout.
Lead students through a discussion of the point of view expressed in this cartoon.
- Have students create a political cartoon that communicates a different point of view than the one they
Activity Two (One Class Period)
- Have students pair up and share the political cartoons they created. Remind students of the primary source
analysis process they went through previously, and ask them to discuss each other’s cartoons for five
minutes. Distribute the Primary Source Analysis Tool handout, and ask students to discuss each other’s cartoons.
- Explain to students that they will be analyzing a historical political cartoon and thinking about the political
cartoonist’s point of view. Distribute “The repeal, or the funeral of Miss Ame=Stamp” (PDF, 863 KB) to each student, along with the Primary Source Analysis Tool (PDF, 79 KB). Have students perform a primary source analysis on the cartoon, recording their responses on their individual copies of the handout. Ask students to evaluate the cartoon to examine the cartoonist’s point of view. If students need prompting use questions selected from the teacher's guide Analyzing Political Cartoons to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.
Note: If you feel students need additional information on the Stamp Act, you might review the relevant material
in this Library of Congress exhibition, John Bull and Uncle Sam: Four Centuries of British-American Relations.
- Discuss the two handouts once students complete them, or after collecting them, evaluating them, and
returning them to students.
- Have students analyze another political cartoon about the Stamp Act, “Magna Britannia” (PDF, 323 KB) by Benjamin Franklin. Have students complete the Primary Source Analysis Tool (PDF/79KB), and then discuss the differences between “Magna Britannia” (PDF, 323 KB) and “The repeal, or the funeral of Miss Ame=Stamp.” (PDF, 863 KB). Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher’s guide Analyzing Political Cartoons to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.
- The Stamp Act was not the only legislation imposed on the American colonists by the British government. Have
students explore the exhibition John Bull & Uncle Sam: Four Centuries of British-American Relations to locate another political cartoon that addresses the legislation from the perspective of the colonists. Analyze this new cartoon with the Primary Source Analysis Tool (PDF, 79 KB) . Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher’s guide Analyzing Political Cartoons to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.
- Using one of the following Library of Congress collections, have students locate a political cartoon that deals
with an aspect of history that they are familiar with and analyze it using the Primary Source Analysis Tool (PDF, 79 KB)
- Using the online activity It’s No Laughing Matter, have students analyze the persuasive techniques used in Civil
Rights political cartoons.