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Lessons in Looking: Imperialism Cartoons

This activity teaches students how to break down different elements of a political cartoon. Students examine how different symbols and images can be combined to convey meaning. Then students analyze a 1902 political cartoon about U.S. expansion overseas and the acquisition of new territories in the Philippines in Cuba. This activity includes a Smartboard Notebook file.

Objectives

  • Students will discuss how images and symbols are combined by political cartoonists to convey ideas.

  • Students will analyze a political cartoon about U.S. imperialism in the 1890s. 

Instructions

Step 1: Project the first slide of the Notebook file, where the elements of the political cartoon "Uncle Sam Watches Over Cuba and the Philippines" have been divided up. Ask up to three volunteers to come to the Smartboard. Each volunteer should choose two elements from the cartoon and move them above the line. 

Step 2: For each pairing, discuss what the symbols mean and what message is conveyed by putting them together. 

Step 3:Project the cartoon "Uncle Sam Watches Over Cuba and the Philippines." Pass out copies of the cartoon and either the U.S. Imperialism Cartoon Analysis worksheet. Have students work on Part 1 of the worksheet with a partner.

OR You can hand out “Uncle Sam Watches over Cuba and the Philippines” Analysis Worksheet. Have students complete both parts of the worksheet.

Step 4: If you used the U.S. Imperialism Cartoon Analysis worksheet, as a group, discuss and complete Part 2 of the worksheet. 

If you used “Uncle Sam Watches over Cuba and the Philippines” Analysis Worksheet, as a group, discuss what students put in the venn diagram, and what they think is the cartoon's main idea.

Activity Extension

Teachers may want to use this activity as an introduction to the activity "Creating a Cartoon of the Philippine-American War."

Historical Context

During the United States' imperialist efforts at the turn of the twentieth century, cartoon illustrators used their canvases to convey the arguments for and against the Philippine-American War. Some artists highlighted the "primitive" civilization of the Filipinos as a reason for U.S. intervention, while others bemoaned the intervention as anti-democratic and un-American.

Source | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, 2011.
Creator | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning
Rights | Copyright American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Item Type | Teaching Activity
Cite This document | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, “Lessons in Looking: Imperialism Cartoons,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 17, 2018, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1774.

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