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[Detail] Millions of acres, Iowa and Nebraska, 1872


Like music, art has long been used as a means of communicating the artist's view on current issues. For example, the "Illustrations of the American Anti-slavery Almanac for 1840" portrayed slavery in a way designed to enlist support for the abolitionist movement. Study these drawings carefully and answer the following questions:

  • List examples of cruel treatment of slaves shown in the illustrations.
  • The caption of one of the illustrations reads "Showing how slavery improves the condition of the female sex." Paired with the picture, what does this caption mean?
  • In general, how do the captions expand your understanding of the artist's view of slavery?
  • How effective do you think these sketches were in enlisting support for the abolitionist movement?
  • Is art an effective propaganda tool? Use historic and contemporary examples to support your answer.

Political cartoons are another form of art used to convey ideas and opinions. Consider the cartoon "Our Destiny Is in His Hands" from the Detroit Free Press, May 29, 1941. The cartoon appeared a few days after an unarmed U.S. merchant ship, the Robin Moor, was torpedoed by a German submarine.

  • Why does the cartoonist show Roosevelt at the wheel of a ship?
  • What is the cartoonist's view of the Roosevelt administration's ability to handle this crisis?
  • Is a political cartoon an effective way to show support for a political action or point of view? Is it an effective way to question a political action or point of view? In your opinion, which use is more common? Why do you think that might be true?