Before memes, there were cartoons.

In this lesson, high school juniors will be asked to analyze political cartoons related to immigration in early 20th century America. Students will be asked to use the Library of Congress’ Cartoon Analysis Guide to identify the persuasive techniques used and, use the guided questions to come up with their own conclusions on the varying opinion about immigration during this time period. This lesson will build off of our previous lessons about immigration in America at this time. Students will have a working knowledge of the immigration process in America at this time, including knowledge about the Chinese Exclusion Act.

The class will begin with a brief overview of the cartoon analysis guide. Using this guide, we as a class will go through a political cartoon together, identifying persuasive techniques, and then answering the following questions about the cartoon:

  • What issue is this political cartoon about?
  • What do you think is the cartoonist’s opinion on this issue?
  • What other opinion can you imagine another person having on this issue?
  • Did you find this cartoon persuasive?
  • Why or why not?
  • What other techniques could the cartoonist have used to make this cartoon more persuasive?

After we analyze a cartoon together, students will break up into groups of two to analyze a different cartoon, and then present their findings to the class. We will discuss their findings, adding any other observations we made together as a group.

Students will be analyzing the following cartoons:

  1. Uncle Sam’s Lodging House 
  2. Americanese Wall
  3. Dodging the Exclusion Act
  4. Welcome to All!

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