Seminar plan: The Art of Politics Desegregation + Herb Block Political Cartoon, May 17, 1962. Ideas and Values

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Paideia Seminar Using Authentic Documents “I’m eight. I was born on the day of the Supreme Court decision.”

Pat Pierce


Herb Block political cartoon, “I was born on the day of the Supreme Court decision.”

May 17, 1962.
SEMINAR PLAN: The Art of Politics - Desegregation + Herb Block Political Cartoon, May 17, 1962.
Ideas and Values:
equality, truth, education
Content - present relevant background information:

* Have students examine the cartoon in detail. Notes/questions can be written on an index card regarding the most relevant details. Underline the one detail you deem most important.
* Share background information about desegregation in the USA:
This cartoon was published May 17, 1961. The Supreme Court of the United States of America received the Brown v. Board of Education, Shawnee County, Kansas in 1951 and announced in October of 1952 that the case would be heard this session. There were other cases from other states pending before the court. Later, the court ruled that all five cases would be “bundled” and heard together since this was proof enough that segregation was not just a Southern problem but a national one. After hearing arguments, two different justices dying, new ones being appointed after approval of the Legislative Branch of the government, the case was ruled on with a unanimous decision: Public schools should not be separated on the basis of race. Segregation did not end with this ruling because numerous school districts reworked their guidelines and disobeyed the decision of the Supreme Court.
Political cartoonist, Herb Block, better known as Herblock, championed civil rights throughout his career. Eight years after the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, in the 1954 case of Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, he penned this cartoon expressing his dismay at the country’s slow progress toward educational integration. In his book, Straight Herblock, he wrote, “The racist demagogues and rulers of state fiefdoms need not send to know for whom the school bell tolls. It tolls for them.”
Schools were exceedingly slow in abolishing separate schools, not only elementary but all the way through colleges and universities. In fact, US Army soldiers,

National Guardsmen, State Highway Patrolmen and other members of law enforcement agencies were called upon to help keep the peace and integrate schools.

Process - Prepare students for participation in seminar discussion:

Review seminar guidelines and define roles for facilitator and participants. Using appropriate seminar checklist or rubric, have students discuss what group goal they think they should work on in order to have a successful seminar. Individual goals should also be established.

Opening - identify main ides from the text:
What one detail in this cartoon tells you most about this girl’s school life? (Round- robin) What does the detail you selected reveal? (Spontaneous)

Core - Focus/analyze textual details:
Our country has traditionally supported the idea that with an education all things are possible and anyone can be successful. What does this cartoon say about that idea?
How does Herb Block use sizes as well as names to show the viewer truth and the slowness of people to obey?
Why do you think he selected this setting and these two characters in particular to convey his message?
What is he saying with this cartoon? Would it have made as much sense to omit the girls words? Would the cartoon be as powerful or even more powerful without her words?

Closing - Personalize and apply the textual ideas:
How is your life different from that if the girl in this cartoon? How is your life like hers? Are schools equal in your town? Are the schools equal in the district and state? Are schools equal across the states in the US?

Post - Seminar
Process - Assess individual and group participation in the seminar discussion:
With the students review the seminar process. To what extent did the group achieve its goal? To what extent did individuals achieve their goals? Plan for the next seminar.

Content - Extend application of textual and discussion ideas:
Have students respond to the following writing prompt:
Continue the conversation between the little girl and the man standing in front of her.

What do you suppose he is thinking? Might he be a school official? A teacher? A judge? How about a parent and one of those other positions? What do you think they are saying?

Rather than the little girl conversing with the man, imagine you are conversing with him as a time traveling student and you have returned to May, 1962. What would you share with him about then and what happens after 1962?


Create a political cartoon about the state/conditions regarding your school. Be certain to include the day, month and year regarding whatever situation you are addressing.


[There are numerous books about these times. Rather than list any one in particular, I used on line resources, especially information about Brown v. Board of Education and political cartoons about the same subject.]

On line:
“Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas” September 22, 2011.
“Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas,+Timeline” September 22, 2011.
“Herb Block - political cartoons”

September 22, 2011.

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