Week Two Assignment Sample

What character(s) are in the cartoon:

In the cartoon we see Uncle Sam, the recently acquired territories of the Philippines, Hawaii,

Puerto Rico, and Cuba. We also see the various states, a Chinese American, a Native

American, and an African American.

What symbols and actions does the artist employ in the cartoon:

The cartoon uses the symbolism of a classroom in which Uncle Sam, or America, is the

teacher. The Philippines, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Cuba are identified using labelling, are

portrayed using racist exaggeration, and are depicted as bad students who Uncle Sam is in the

process of punishing them. The American states are also identified using labelling, and are

portrayed as well behaved white students; the white students are portrayed without racist

exaggeration of their features. An African American is depicted cleaning the windows; racist

exaggeration is used in his portrayal. A Native American sits by the door, seemingly

struggling to read, again, racist exaggeration is used in this depiction. A Chinese American

stands outside the door, depicted using racist exaggeration.

What issues does the cartoon raise:

The cartoon raises issues of dominance, racism, progress, and paternalism.

By presenting the American Empire as a classroom, the cartoon raises the issue of racism and

American superiority. Both Uncle Sam as the teacher, and the States as model students are

portrayed as white, perpetuating the idea that white Americans were more advanced. African

Americans, Native Americans, Chinese Americans, and the people of the Philippines, Hawaii,

Puerto Rico, and Cuba, were portrayed in racist caricature as the reluctant beneficiaries of

Uncle Sam’s instruction.

The cartoon depicts the newly acquired American Empire as a classroom in which

“civilization” is taught. The cartoon illustrates the kind of paternalism that we see in Kipling’s

poem “The White Man’s Burden”. As Barnes and Bowles (2015) point out “The poem

suggests that providing noble service to the inhabitants of the developing world justified the

desire for empire. Viewed as a benevolent enterprise, imperialism also made the domination

of another nation’s economic and political structure seem necessary and helpful” (Section


What does the cartoon say about the consequences of the Spanish American War for the

countries occupied?

The cartoon illustrates how the countries occupied by the Spanish American war lost their

right to determine their own future. Instead, their future was determined for them by the

United States. Instead of determining for themselves who and what they were, they were

placed on the bottom of a hierarchy, treated as if they were less civilized, and in need of strict

discipline. All the while the United States was gaining access to their resources, and using

their location for strategic military purposes.

How did your understanding of the cartoon change after doing the analysis exercise?

Before doing the exercise, I recognized that the cartoon was depicting a classroom, with

different races of students. The analysis exercise helped me to better understand the classroom

in the cartoon was a symbol of the American Empire after the Spanish American War. The

exercise also helped me see the way that racism both at home and abroad were being depicted

in the cartoon.


Barnes, L. & Bowles, M. (2014).The American story: Perspectives and encounters from 1877.

San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.