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Landmark Cases of the U.S. Supreme Court

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Political Cartoon Analysis

Work with a partner to analyze this political cartoon (from the Lilly Library, Indiana University) and answer these questions.

  1. What do you see in the cartoon? Make a list. Include objects, people, and any characteristics that seem to be exaggerated. 
  2. Which of the items on the list from Question 1 are symbols? What does each symbol stand for? 
  3. What is happening in the cartoon? 
  4. What is the cartoonist's message?
  5. Do you agree or disagree with the cartoonist's message? Explain your answer.
  6. This cartoonist has a particular point of view about the impact of the Court’s Dred Scott decision on the election of 1860.  Use your imagination and predict what a cartoonist would draw who held the opposite point of view about the case.  What might his or her message be?  What images, symbols, and words would he or she use?  Now draw a sketch of what an opposing cartoonist might draw.

This exercise was adapted from a worksheet designed and developed by the education staff at the National Archives and Records Administration.

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