Demonized, Yet Weaponized

Featured image from PICRYL.

This is a picture of the Tuskegee Airmen, which was a segregated Air Force unit consisting of African American fighter and bomber pilots. The Tuskegee Airmen were deployed many times in overseas combat missions. In and outside of the military, the Tuskegee Airmen experienced discrimination, despite their service.

Image 1: Anti-Japanese Propaganda

Source from PICRYL (click for options to view larger version)

Context: Official U.S. Army propaganda poster that was circulated between 1941 and 1945. On the poster, you can see an official U.S. military seal, as well as a “little” Japanese soldier who pales in comparison to the “big job” text.

Image 2: Japanese American Soldiers

Source from PICRYL (click for options to view larger version)

Context: Despite widespread demonization and internment, thousands of Japanese Americans had the “opportunity” to fight for the United States during World War II. This is an image of Japanese American soldiers belonging to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which consisted of second-generation Japanese Americans, also known as Nisei.

Image 3: African American Military Police Officer

Source from PICRYL (click for options to view larger version)

Context: During World War II, African Americans experienced segregation in the civilian sector, as well as in the armed forces. This is an image of an African American MP officer who was stationed in Columbus, Georgia. A few years after World War II, President Truman desegregated the armed forces by citing African American wartime contributions.

Questions for Students

Question 1: What do you think the purpose is for the creation of each image? How are they similar and/or different?

Question 2: For images 1 and 2, do you think the creators were purposeful with their use of symbols? What stands out?

Question 3: How are images 2 and 3 similar to each other? What do they accomplish, whether good or bad?

Instructional Goals and Model Answers:

Students will be able to examine the historical contexts that influenced the creation of three World War II primary sources.

Students will be able to compare World War II primary sources that relate to discrimination and segregation in the armed services.

Question 1: I think the purpose behind the creation of each image was for military recruiting. This is easily seen in image 1, as reflected by the U.S. Army seal in the upper-left corner. Essentially, this poster aims to stir fear and hysteria among young recruits who were led to believe they can make a difference. In image 2, Japanese American soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team are portrayed in a positive light, which contradicted the dominating anti-Japanese hysteria of the time. Many Japanese Americans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team were volunteers from internment camps, so this photo could have been used for recruiting purposes to show how Japanese Americans could “prove themselves” loyal. Similarly, image 3 could have been purposed to recruit African Americans into the military. The image portrays a strong and young African American man living an exciting life as an MP officer (hence the pose with the motorcycle). Compared to what most African Americans experienced during this time, this image could be seen as a way for African American men to earn prestige and “prove themselves” in a similar manner to image 2.

Question 2: In image 1, the Rising Sun Flag is front and center, and it is on the helmet of the Japanese soldier. The red coloring of the Rising Sun Flag is paired with the soldier himself, so anything red in the poster is associated with the enemy; the red text reading “The little Jap” is paired with the red colorings of the Rising Sun Flag. In image 2, the American flag is emphasized due to its large size and coloration that stands out compared to the Japanese American soldiers. The soldiers in this picture are paired with the American flag, and are thus “mighty” and portrayed in a positive manner, unlike the pairing in image 1.

Question 3: Images 2 and 3 portray minorities who were often stigmatized serving in the armed forces. Both images reflect the segregation of the armed forces since in image 2, only Japanese Americans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team are shown, and in image 3, the sign in the background distinguishes the MP officer as belonging to a segregated MP unit. Both images portray usually-stigmatized minorities in a positive light, but there are features of segregation that appeal to dominating notions of racism.

Freedom for Everyone? Not quite.

Featured Image Taken From Library of Congress

Context: Slavery of both Africans and African Americans within the United States existed from the creation of our country in 1776 until the 13th Amendment of the Constitution in 1865. Slavery played a pivotal role in the founding of the United States, with the majority of our founding fathers even benefitting from slave labor during their time. While the constitution was written to suggest that everyone deserved basic civil liberties, the actions of politicians during this period of time suggested that they believed otherwise.

Context: Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States. Abraham Lincoln is often known as “The Great Emancipator” due to relatively progressive stance (for the time) against slavery. However, despite this, Lincoln’s stance on slavery was not necessarily one based entirely on the grounds of morality. From the beginning, Lincoln ran on a platform of prevention for the spread of slavery, but it took many years for him to finally recommend emancipation as a means of ending slavery. Lincoln argued that someone should not be enslaved simply for having a darker complexion or a lesser intellect, but did not explicitly argue that people from African descent were equal to those of European descent. While Lincoln certainly played a major role in emancipation, it is not entirely clear whether he justified his decision as a political narrative, or if he felt strongly against the unequal treatment of African Americans.

Context: The Emancipation Proclamation effectively changed the focus of the Civil War from that of preserving the Union to that of ending slavery. On January 1, 1863 Abraham Lincoln gave The Emancipation Proclamation which served multiple purposes: The first was to emancipate any slaves from territories that were liberated by the Union, and the other was to reduce the potential for European intervention in the war on behalf of the Confederacy. Shortly following the Civil War, the 13th Amendment would be made to The Constitution. However, despite the end of slavery becoming a reality, slaves were not allowed to be citizens of the United States, they could not vote, and they were still subject to many instances of segregation based off of nothing more than their complexion.

Context: This map shows the progression of the Civil War from the years 1861-1864. In particular, it shows the progression of the Union further South as they began to get a greater foothold against the Confederacy.

Questions for Students:
1. Why would the Emancipation Proclamation reduce the potential for European intervention in the Civil War?

2. What other political advantages could come out of ending slavery within the United States?

3. Why would the Confederacy (in Southern regions) be more attached to slavery compared to the Union?

Instructional Goals and Sample Answers:
The learner will analyze the text, the map, and the provided images as context clues to answer the provided questions.

1. The Emancipation Proclamation could reduce European intervention by establishing a different motive for war within the Union. Rather than the war being a simple disagreement where either side could potentially be incorrect, the slavery narrative allowed the Union a definitive motive that was aimed at ending something that made the United States look like hypocrites to the rest of the world, given the wording of our constitution.

2. A few advantages could come out of it. The party that freed the slaves, assuming they could pass voting right acts could have a new source of voters. Another advantage would be that the United States could appear more noble on the world stage, which could benefit foreign policy. Finally, as it was stated above, it allowed for a more “1 on 1” war between the Union and the Confederacy – one of the things that helped ensure Union victory during the Civil War.

3. Slavery was more appealing to those in Southern climates because there was more farming occurring in those areas. In particular, the South is known for fruit growing and cotton plantations. These were huge industries that would be made exponentially more expensive and difficult if slave labor was abolished. The colder Northern climates were more focused on technology and big industries that did not require/ did not benefit heavily from slave labor making it less of a necessity.

1849 California Gold Rush: A Tempting Opportunity

Feature Image Source Library of Congress

Image 1: 1849 Map of the United States, British Provinces, and Mexico

Source Library of Congress

Context: The map shows “U.S. mail steam packets to California”. These are the routes that steam powered packet boats traveled via rivers and canals to transport mail across the country. The term “packet ship” originated from boats that were employed to transport post office mail (paquette) packets to and from European colonies. The term stuck and thus, packet boats were used in the United States throughout the 18th and 19th centuries to transport mail. This was the first time that packet boats were being advertised to travel to the West Coast.

Image 2: Illustration of San Francisco 1846

Source Library of Congress

Context: It has been estimated that Northern California was one of the most populated regions in North America prior to European conquest and the massacre of Native populations regarding disease, slavery and war. This illustration depicts the San Francisco peninsula (Montgomery Street) in 1846. This was after the Spanish mission had already commenced, and prior to the gold rush era. 

Image 3: Illustration of San Francisco 1878

Source Library of Congress

Context: This illustration originally published in 1878 depicts “The city of San Francisco. Birds eye view from the bay looking south-west.” After the surge of migrants to California in 1849, San Francisco’s landscape saw drastic change through its development of infrastructure such as streets, wharfs, buildings, etc. San Francisco’s catastrophic fire of 1906 forced the city to recreate an entirely new grid system, which is how the city is organized today. 

Questions for Students:

  1. How might the 1849 map of United States have persuaded Americans living on the East Coast to migrate to California?
  2. How is the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo represented in this map, and how was it pivotal in shaping the future of the United States?
  3. Do you think the 1878 Illustration of San Francisco was accurate? What might have been some of the environmental impacts that the gold rush brought with it? What impacts on native populations did the gold rush bring with it?

Instructional Goals and Model Answers

The learner will evaluate why the map and illustrations were created, and provide an opinion on the reliability of such resources. 

Question 1: Prior to the 1840s, there were no formal methods of organizing mail to reach the West Coast. It would be astonishing to see a formal publication supporting the reality that now, there will be regular mail steam packets traveling to and from California. This would further encourage young men to commit their lives to the California Gold rush; providing them with an opportunity to communicate and send money to their families elsewhere in the country. 

Question 2: The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was pivotal in the shaping of the US with regard to its confirmation of the United States’ ability for expansion. After the treaty was signed, Americans on the East coast felt less likely to encounter violence on their journey westward. The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo supported the United States idea of manifest destiny, and occurred during a time that was supportive of the masses migrating to California; the treaty was coincidentally signed one year before prospectors noticed ample amounts of gold in the Sacramento area.

Question 3: Considering that the population of San Francisco grew from about 1,000 people in 1848, to over 25,000 in December of 1849, I would agree that by 1878 the illustration depicts an accurate representation of the San Francisco peninsula. The advances in development presented in the illustrations prove to be accurate with regard to the attention that San Francisco received during the 1849 Gold Rush; a multitude of boats in the harbor, crowded streets, etc. The large influx of American migrants aided California’s admission into the Union as the 31st state. This large influx of European descended migrants also brought disease, which in turn, negatively affected whatever native population was left after their losses from the Spanish’ missions.

“The Unhappy Sufferers”: Bostonians vs. Brits circa. 1770

Featured Image Source

Image 1: Excise Payment in Tar and Feathers

Image Source

Context: The caption reads “The Bostonians paying the excise-man or tarring & feathering”. This cartoon depicts a fiendish-looking group of Bostonians “paying their dues” to the British tax collector by tarring and feathering him. Tarring and feathering is the act of dousing someone in tar and feathers in an attempt to humiliate them. The Brit is also being forced to drink tea. Behind the mob stands a “liberty tree” with a “Stamp Act” poster on its trunk and a noose hanging from a branch. Out on the water is a recreation of the Boston Tea Party in which Bostonians threw tea overboard a British ship as a way to protest the Tea Act.

Image 2: “The Patriot’s copious Tears . . . which embalms the Dead”

Image Source

Context: This drawing shows a scene from the “Bloody Massacre”, also known as the “Boston Massacre”, in which British soldiers shot and killed multiple people after being harassed by a mob of civilians. This was during the British occupation in Boston. In the image, we see the British soldiers on the right attacking

Student Questions

  1. Who do you think the target audiences of these images are? Are they meant to be seen by the same or different demographics of people?
  2. What purpose do you think these images serve? Why might have been the authors motive in creating them?
  3. Put yourself in the perspective of a Bostonian during the 1770s. How might you respond to each of these images? Would your perspective change as a person living in Britain?

Instructional Goals and Model Answers

  • Students will be able to investigate an author’s purpose by analyzing the work created by that author in the context for which it was created.
  1. The target audiences for these images are different. Image 1 is meant to be seen by the British. This image shows the Bostonians as cruel people who do terrible things to the British because they don’t want to pay taxes. Image 2’s target audience are the people living in the colonies. The picture and accompanying description paint the British as uncaring people who are indifferent about killing the Bostonians.
  2. I think these images are meant to make the people within their targeted demographic angry and strengthen the biases they have about the opposite group of people. The colonists wanted support in their rebellion against the British while the British wanted those within Britain to support the decisions being made by them in the American colonies.
  3. As a Bostonian, both of these images would probably enrage me. The first image because it paints people like me in a bad light. The second image would also make me angry at the British for cruelly murdering people within my city. It may also inspire me to support the rebellion. As a British person, I would probably be disgusted by the images. Image 1 would make me upset and sick because it depicts someone like me being harassed by people going against the government I support. Image 2, however, might make me feel mixed things. If I already support the British troops, I’d probably be upset that the Bostonians depicted the soldiers in the way that they did. If I wasn’t sure about my stance on the colonies, I might start thinking negatively about the soldiers in the colonies.