Primary Source Icebreakers Through the Milk Tea Alliance

The Milk Tea Alliance is an anti-Beijing meme and online democratic solidarity movement. The three original members of the virtual alliance are the Taiwanese boba tea, Hong Kong-style milk tea and Thai tea.

Speech Bubbles

Title: Representatives Eliot Engel with Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong talks about Hong Kong situation at the U.S. Capitol

Context: Joshua Wong and Nathan Law – both pictured above – are two of the most well-known revolutionaries in modern Hong Kong history. They were both sentenced to prison for sedition and unlawful assembly in 2017 when Wong was just 20 years old. The two spearheaded the Demosisto, a group of young Hong Kongers fighting for education reform and the semi-autonomy they were promised by China in 1997. In 2018 they won a Nobel Peace Prize for spending their adolescence protesting for political reform and for their efforts in protecting the autonomy and freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. A large resurgence of Hong Kong Protests came in mid-2019 with the introduction of the extradition bill.

Ice Breaker Prompt: Write a speech bubble for what the U.S. Representative is saying into the microphone in a sentence of two and then a thought bubble for Wong.

Democratic Representative Eliot Engel says: These two men have devoted their young lives to politics and fighting for freedom. Young Americans should look up to these two as examples of how to enact and fight for change in a broken system.
Joshua Wong thinks: Don’t worry Engel, I foresee young Americans having their hands full with all sorts of domestic injustice in the coming years.


Title: 2020 Taiwan presidential election opinion polls

Context: On January 11th, 2020, Taiwan had its 7th democratic election for president. Democratic elections for president began on the island in 1996 and since then its been a battle of two main party’s; the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Kuomintang (KMT). In the graph above the DPP candidate and incumbent, Tsai Ingwen is represented by the green line and dots while the blue represent’s the KMT’s Han Guoyu. The DPP platform is ultimately trying to continue Taiwan’s slow but steady democratization and further itself from China by establishing a Taiwanese national identity. The KMT is generally favorable towards the ‘one county two system’ idea and has closer ties to China. The Chinese government greatly prefers the views of the KMT and actively promotes KMT candidates.

Ice Breaker Prompt: Analyze the graph. What questions do you have? Why might there be a shift halfway through 2019? Why did the Taiwanese people choose Tsai Ingwen?

The shift seems to coincide with the Hong Kong Protests. Taiwanese people might have seen the punitive, destructive practices of China and decided that they no longer wanted to support the party that favors China. What was Han Guoyu’s agenda and what was he saying and doing in the months leading up to the election? Did he condemn police brutality in HK?


Title: A Winnie the Pooh toy used to symbolize Xi Jinping with the Chinese flag on it, used in the 1 December protests

Context: In online culture Winnie the Pooh is used to symbolize Xi Jinping. Xi subsequently censored the use of Pooh on Chinese internet. It also appears that there is a Chinazi flag stuck on Pooh. Hong Kongers use the swastika to liken China and President Xi to Germany and Nazi’s because of their imprisonment of Uighur Muslims.

Icebreaker Prompt: What are the symbols in the photo? What context would make them confusing?

Response: People on the internet have claimed Xi looks like Winnie the Pooh for years. The swastika is representative of how China has concentration camps as Nazi Germany once did. The U.S. flags confuse me however; where is this protest taking place?

The Women of World War II


Photograph 181-MINSYHISTSUBJ-WOMEN1917(1951)-WOM8; Women shipfitters worked on board the USS NEREUS, and are shown as they neared completion of the floor in a part of the engine room.; ca. 1943; Women Workers 1917-1951; Records of Naval Districts and Shore Establishments, Record Group 181; National Archives at San Francisco, San Bruno, CA. Source

Context: This image is from 1943 and depicts five women working in the engine room onboard the USS Nereus.

Icebreaker Prompt: Analyze this image and write down three things that surprise you about this image. Why are these things surprising? Discuss what stood out to you with a partner.

Response: One thing that surprises me is that these women are wearing pants and overalls because during this time period women typically wore dresses. Another thing that surprised me is that there is a Black woman working on the same crew as four white women. This stood out to me because this photo was taken prior to the Civil Rights movement and segregation was still very common. Finally, I noticed that these women are doing mechanic work that would normally be considered a “man’s job” during these era. These anomalies lead me to conclude that the necessity of the war was greater than social norms and as a result women of various backgrounds had access to opportunities and spaces that they would normally have been denied if the men had not been at war.


Cartoon 208-COM-568; It’s Either That, or Time off Until a Day Nursery is Organized; ca. 1943; Artworks and Mockups for Cartoons Promoting the War Effort and Original Sketches by Charles Alston, ca. 1942 – ca. 1945; Records of the Office of War Information, Record Group 208; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. Source

Context: This cartoon is from 1943, the caption at the bottom reads “It’s either that, or time off until a day nursery is organzied!”

Icebreaker Prompt: After looking at this cartoon, brainstorm a list of questions. Rank them in order of interest, with (1) being the question you are most interested in knowing the answer to.

Response: Was the policy on absenteeism unfair to low-income female workers that could not afford childcare? Did female workers organize themselves into any sort of union to make demands such as having a day nursery? What kind of quotas were in place in these jobs – was there punishment or reward for not meeting or exceeding quotas? Were these job sites a dangerous environment for children? Did all female workforces during the war have male leadership/management?

Thought Bubbles

Photograph PHOCO-A-55231(3); Women’s Ambulance Transport Corps. San Diego, California ; 1939-1945; Franklin D. Roosevelt Library Public Domain Photographs, 1882 – 1962; Collection FDR-PHOCO: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library Public Domain Photographs; Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, NY. Source

Context: This photo depicts a WWII female Ambulance Transport Corps completing training in San Diego, California.

Icebreaker Prompt: After looking at the image, what do you think the people in this photograph are thinking or saying?

Response: Officer: “They’re stronger than I thought they would be……” Man in Stretcher: “This isn’t the worst task I’ve volunteered for” Women Carrying Stretcher: “This would be a lot easier if I wasn’t in a skirt”

Living Through History: The End of Apartheid Through Images

(Featured Image Source)

With one of the most impactful elections for America’s long-term future coming up in November of this year, it may be valuable to take a step back and look at some of the most important elections in history.  I want to use the transition away from Apartheid in South Africa, and the election of Nelson Mandela, to examine massive transitions in power, the value of elections, and what images can tell us about living through historical events.


F.W. de Klerk, left, the last president of apartheid-era South Africa, and Nelson Mandela, his successor, wait to speak in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Source)

Nelson Mandela was the leader of the African National Congress (ANC), and he worked to peacefully transition power away from the brutally racist Apartheid government of F.W. de Klerk.  In 1993, the two met with then President Bill Clinton to both be awarded the Liberty Medal for their peaceful efforts.

Icebreaker Prompt:
Questioning:  Analyze the image.  Brainstorm a list of questions.  Are the questions closed or open?  Rank them in order of individual curiosity.

1. Why is F.W. de Klerk at the meeting if he was the President of the racist government
2. Why is Nelson Mandela chosen to be the leader of the ANC?
3. Does this award have any implications on the elections coming up in 1994?
4. Why hold the meeting in Philadelphia?
5. Who looks excited and who doesn’t?  Why or why not?


Mandela casting his vote in 1994

The first free and fair elections were held in South Africa in 1994.  Nelson Mandela is seen here casting a vote for himself (as leader of the ANC party).  He would win overwhelmingly and become one of the most beloved figures in modern South Africa.

Icebreaker Prompt:
Thought Bubbles:  Analyze the image.  What do you think the subjects in the image are thinking or saying?

Nelson Mandela:  He seems joyous in this photo.  I think he must be thinking about this opportunity to lead, his inevitable win, and his ability to cast a vote for the first time in his life is a vote for himself to be President.


President Obama family (Source)

US President Barak Obama visited Robben Island in 2013, the jail where Nelson Mandela spent several years as a political prisoner before becoming the first black President of South Africa in 1994.

Icebreaker Prompt:
Caption Writer:  Analyze the image.  Does it contain a caption?  Does the caption help the viewer understand the image?  Write a new caption for the image.

President Barak Obama and family visiting Nelson Mandela’s cell at Robben Island in 2013.

American Patriotism Through Images

(Featured Image Source)

Find the range of your patriotism by enlisting in the Navy / WI ; P&GA. Source.

Context: TItled “Find the Range of Your Patriotism by Enlisting in the Navy” was created to encourage more United States Americans to enlist in the Navy during World War I.

Icebreaker Prompt: Analyze the image. Does the caption help understand the image? Create a new caption for the image.

Response: The caption does help understand the image. It shows men working together to defeat the enemy. The caption points out that those men are patriots for doing so. Additionally, the “range” that the caption holds refers to the range of American patriotism. If one was not to enlist at all, one might be considered less than a patriot than those who did enlist. The new caption is “You Can Become an American Patriot by Enlisting”.

“No Known Restrictions: Pledge of Allegiance by Dorothea Lange, San Francisco 1942 (LOC)” by is marked with CC PDM 1.0 Source

Context: This image, taken by Dorothea Lange shows school children saying the Pledge of Allegiance in April 1942. During this time, World War II was raging on and at this point, the United States had already joined the Allied Forces.

Icebreaker Prompt: Analyze the image. What do you think the subjects in the photo are thinking? Create a thought bubble for the subjects in the image.

Response: The subjects are saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Many of the students look like they are getting into the pledge and are enjoying their time to be patriotic. As for the thought bubbles, I picked the three girls in the front row. The one on the far left is thinking “I hope I am getting these words right. I don’t want to seem unpatriotic.”. The girl in the middle is thinking “This is my favorite part!”. And finally, the girl on the far right is thinking “This is a great poem. I love reciting it every day at school.”.

“Rally against the Dakota Access Pipeline” by Fibonacci Blue is licensed under CC BY 2.0 Source

Context: This image shows the rally against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Minnesota. The planned pipeline was going to bring in thousands of barrels of oil ranging from North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline’s track was intended to pass upstream from the Sioux Nation. The protest was to prevent the pipeline as well as prevent contamination of the water of the Sioux nation.

Icebreaker Prompt: Analyze the image. Brainstorm a list of five questions. Rank them based on the level of interest.


  1. Is protest a form of patriotism?
  2. Was the pipeline stopped?
  3. Is there another way to extract fossil fuels without disrupting any person’s way of life?
  4. When people protest against the government for positive progress and way of life, is that considered patriotism?
  5. What does it mean for the American perception of native tribes if the government allowed the pipeline to negatively affect the Sioux Nation?