At a Glance

  • Stacy Hoeflich's 4th-grade students learn about Virginia's policy of massive resistance to public school desegregation by carefully reading and examining two political cartoons.

Massive Resistance through Political Cartoons

Identifying the Parts of a Cartoon Identifying the Parts of a Cartoon Cont Introducing the Second Cartoon Drawing Conclusions and Extending the Lesson

Video Transcription

  • Identifying the Parts of a Cartoon
  • Identifying the Parts of a Cartoon, cont.
  • Introducing the Second Cartoon
  • Drawing Conclusions and Extending the Lesson

  • 5:19
  • 3:40
  • 3:56
  • 4:02
  • Stacy Hoeflich: Two editorial cartoons done by Fred O. Seibel. One is from 1954—May of 1954—and one is from I think September of 1958. They were published in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

    There isn't actually anything in our 4th-grade curriculum about World War I or World War II, or pretty much anything at all after Reconstruction until we get to civil rights. So the unit that we do this in, we combine Reconstruction and Civil Rights together.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Brown v. Board of Education. What is Brown v. Board of Education? What is that?

    Student: Brown v. Board of Education is when they want to talk about how it's not fair for the black people to be segregated from white people.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Great word! "Segregated." Separate but equal is not really equal. So what does that mean had to happen after Brown v. Board of Education? What does that mean had to happen after Brown v. Board of Education, in Virginia? [Calls on student]

    Student: The black students and the white students had to be integrated.

    Stacy Hoeflich: There's the word! They can integrate. They can all go to the same school. Remember we talked about segregating and integrating? Remember we talked about that? So Virginia was told they had to integrate, or—what's that word?

    Students: Desegregate!

    Stacy Hoeflich: Desegregate.

    Stacy Hoeflich: I put together a packet that has a table. I wanted it to be really, really basic. What do you see in the picture? What do you think that thing you see in the picture, why did the artist choose to put that in there? The first one is entitled "Now What?" and it's saying we don't really know what to do at this point because of the Supreme Court desegregation decision.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Let me give you the first cartoon. Take a look at it. Talk with your buddy for a second, take one minute to talk with your buddy. What do you see?

    Okay, let's do this first part together because we did not fill out a chart like this. So I'm right here on the table, and I want to write down something that I see in this cartoon. What's the first thing you see in this cartoon? What should I write down? [Calls on student]

    Student: "Supreme Court Segregation Decision"

    Stacy Hoeflich: And what are those words on?

    Students: A rock.

    Stacy Hoeflich: On my paper, I'm going to write "big rock." Right here, "big rock." Because that's the first thing I see is a big rock in the middle of it. What are some of the other things I see that I'm going to fill out? What are some of the other things that I see? Tiffany?

    Tiffany: A boat that says "The South."

    Stacy Hoeflich: A boat that says "The South." So I'm going to say "Boat, 'The South.'"

    Student: In the background there's like smoke or something.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Are you pointing to this back here? Is it smoke?

    Students: No, it’s clouds.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Cloud. Cloud and?

    Student: Wind.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Cloud and wind. What do we call that?

    Student: Tornado?

    Stacy Hoeflich: Okay, bad weather.

    Student: The boat was in the sea before and it was like going, but then the Supreme Court stopped it.

    Stacy Hoeflich: She says the reason for the drips coming down from the boat is that it used to be in this water. That's the other thing that we're missing here. We're missing that there's an ocean or a sea. What do the directions ask us to do here? Cynthia.

    Cynthia: It's asking what it might represent. Like for the big rock, why did the person put the big rock in there? What does it represent?

    Stacy Hoeflich: Perfect! Why did Fred draw a big rock in the middle of the ocean? Are there usually big rocks in the middle of the ocean like that?

    Students: No.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Okay. So, why a rock? Why not a beach? Why not leave the boat in the ocean? Why a rock? Do you understand that question, makes sense, Sabrina? Why a rock, Saban?

    Saban: Because they're hard and big and the Supreme Court decision was major in how the South lived.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Okay, because rocks are hard and big, and it's major. It's trying to say the decision is major. I could write here that it might represent a big, important thing. But wouldn't, let's say, an island be big? And why a rock? Look at the boat on the rock. Why a rock? Hermas.

    Hermas: Because the Supreme Court is hard. Like, you can't really deal with them a lot.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Okay, so it’s a problem, is that what you're saying? So maybe it's a rock because it’s a problem. If I had to draw a problem, a big rock with a boat on top, doesn't it look like there's a problem now?

    Students: Yes.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Okay, so Fred gave us a big problem.

  • Stacy Hoeflich: The rock represents a big problem. We know what the big problem is because Fred gave us a label, didn't he? Here's the big problem. Who can answer it? What's the big problem?

    Student: That the Supreme Court wants…that the Supreme Court decided to have segregation?

    Stacy Hoeflich: DE-segregation. The Supreme Court told them to desegregate. The Supreme Court told Virginia it has to integrate its schools. That's the problem for these people in Richmond.

    Stacy Hoeflich: The rock is a problem. And then I see a boat on top of the rock; the boat shouldn't be on top of the rock. Where should the boat be? The boat should be in the water obviously. The boat, well, what is the boat? They see it’s labeled "South"; it's labeled "public schools." I tell them I see the boat, but I'm trying to get them to tell me, "Oh, I see that it says, 'the South,' and I see that it says 'public schools,' and there's a little schoolhouse."

    Stacy Hoeflich: What do we think the boat means? Why did Fred give us a boat? Why did Fred give us a boat? Chris.

    Chris: Because the boat represents the South, so the boat is the South.

    Stacy Hoeflich: The boat represents the South, and we don't have to guess too hard because they labeled it for us. So I can write, what is the boat? It's the South. Not just Virginia, all the Southern states. All the Southern states that had Jim Crow laws or had segregated schools. Can everyone show me right now what it looks like to feel angry? Show me, what does it look like to feel angry? Good job, Cynthia, you got it. Okay, what does it look like to feel angry, come on! There you go. Show me what does it look like to feel happy? Okay, how is he feeling? Look at him, how is he feeling?

    Students: Sad, nervous, happy, shy….

    Stacy Hoeflich: Let's not call out, look really carefully. Look at his eyebrows. I'll show you angry, what happens with angry?

    Student: Your eyebrows go down.

    Stacy Hoeflich: They sure do. What happens with happy?

    Students: They go up!

    Stacy Hoeflich: They do. Okay, how about surprised?

    Student: That's like normal.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Oh no, look at Cynthia's eyebrows; they're wayyy up high. Look at Cynthia's eyebrows. How about scared?

    Student: [screams]

    Stacy Hoeflich: How is he feeling? How's he feeling? Look at him. How's he feeling?

    Student: Surprised.

    Stacy Hoeflich: A little bit surprised. Okay, because his eyebrows are way up. Does everybody agree with that?

    Student: And he's wondering like….what will happen next.

    Stacy Hoeflich: So what will happen next. He's kind of wondering, like "I'm not sure."

    Student: He looks like he's worried.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Maybe a little bit worried. A little bit worried, a little bit surprised, a little bit wondering what's going on. Yeah?

    Stacy Hoeflich: I didn't point out the title and the date until the end. The date kind of just helped me go back to Brown v. Board of Education, because we had already talked about that. And then we talked a little bit about the water, the water's really calm, it doesn't look scary at all; although there is this little sort of sketchy cloud in the bottom right-hand corner that isn't scary, it’s a cute little cumulus cloud, but there is some dark sky behind it. So I led them through that piece by piece.

  • Stacy Hoeflich: I went through the first cartoon with them because I wanted them to be really successful and because the advantages of these two cartoons is that they have the same symbols. They fill out a packet and then they have some questions about "What do you think the overall opinion that he's trying to say here is?" We did that together, me leading them through it. And then the second part they were in buddies—and we have social studies buddies, which are high-low pairs. And in buddies, they then had the second cartoon and they had to fill out the same kind of table where they pulled out what they see and what they thought it meant and then answer a question about what did they think the cartoon was telling them at the end.

    Stacy Hoeflich: There's a big wave, compared to that, right?

    Student: Yes, and the bird is there.

    Stacy Hoeflich: The bird is still there.

    Student: The public school is closing.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Okay, the boat changed its name, didn't it?

    Student: He seems mad [unintelligible]

    Stacy Hoeflich: He's mad. How do you know he's mad?

    Student: His eyebrows go down.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Okay, his eyebrows go down. And look at his hat.

    Student: His mustache.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Okay, he looks like he's mad, right? So we need to write that down. We need to write down his face and the man. Good work!

    Stacy Hoeflich: What do you see?

    Student: He's trying to get away…like trying to fight the storm.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Oh, it looks like he's fighting the storm, doesn't it? What tells you that he's fighting? He's not running away from the storm, is he? Does he look afraid?

    Student: No.

    Stacy Hoeflich: What do you think?

    Student: He's mad at the storm.

    Stacy Hoeflich: He's mad. And he's not running away from the storm, what's he doing?

    Student: Trying to get…trying to fight the storm.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Yes, he is trying to fight the storm. And what's the storm? What's it called?

    Student: Integration.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Yeah, yep. Integration.

    Student 1: They’re like having a war.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Okay, it looks like he's fighting, how do you know he's fighting?

    Student 1: Because everything is all messed up and it says "integration" here and this is like the Supreme Court.

    Stacy Hoeflich: So here's integration and it looks like he's fighting it. If you saw a big scary storm like that and waves like that would you fight it?

    Students: [shake heads "no"]

    Stacy Hoeflich: What would you do?

    Student 1: I would….

    Stacy Hoeflich: If you were on that boat and there's a big scary storm, what would you do?

    Student 1: Try to go to shore.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Turn your boat around. Right? Get out of there.

    Student 2: He keeps going.

    Student 1: He's going forwards.

    Stacy Hoeflich: He is. And look at his body. Remember his body before, he was kind of like "oh, I don't know what's going on." And now…

    Student 1: He's mad. He's like…

    Stacy Hoeflich: Yeah! What's he doing, what's he saying?

    Student 1: He's fighting.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Yeah, he's fighting it. And how's he fighting it? It's important to notice that the boat has changed. Look at the other one.

    Student 1: The public schools are closing.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Storm. You did perfect right here. Storm. And it says with integration, the boat. And what are the other things that you see? Break it all into pieces.

    Student: The title says "Riding Out the Storm."

    Stacy Hoeflich: And you can write down the title, write that down. First make a list of all the things that you see and then go back and write down what each one means, you don't have to understand it all right away.

    Stacy Hoeflich: They're able to really get that they're both talking about a problem; they're both talking about integration. They're both talking about a problem with integration. And that, at first they don't know what to do, and they have this idea that they're just going to hold it out. Unlike in other lessons where I had to do a lot more prompting and assisting. I really—I didn't—there were a couple of times that there were certain groups that were pulling apart wave and lightning and cloud into separate boxes, and so I feel like they were missing the point of a storm. So I did for them sort of say, "I think all those things go together, and what do we call that?" and kind of encourage them in that way. But the things I really wanted them to get, they really looked at his face—and his body language and his face tells everything about how Virginia was dealing with this.

  • Stacy Hoeflich: I just asked them to share—just to review what "massive resistance" is. What is the South's response to this demand that you integrate? And they're [the students] able to get definitely that they're just going to wait it out.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Do you think that this picture would have appeared in a newspaper in New York City? Raise your hand. So opinion, it's your opinion. I don't know, maybe it was, I don't know the answer. I'm asking, what do you think? Do you think that this picture might have appeared in a newspaper in New York City? New York Times. Philadelphia Inquirer. Anyone? What do you think? [Calls on student]

    Student: No because….since New York was a Northern state, it didn't happen it that way.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Did you hear that? She said since New York was a Northern state it didn't happen that way. What do you mean by "didn't happen that way?”

    Student: It—they didn't—integration because—you were all equal, but sometimes—they didn't really segregate them—but sometimes they would put the whites by themselves.

    Stacy Hoeflich: The last thing I want to point out is down here in the bottom corner. The date. Can anyone tell me the date? Bottom left-hand corner. Jennifer, can you tell me the date here?

    Jennifer:/em> 8/26?

    Stacy Hoeflich: It says, I think, 8/26. And then what's the last—

    Students: 58.

    Stacy Hoeflich: 58.

    Student: 1958.

    Stacy Hoeflich: 1958. Okay, and this one was? I already told you this at the beginning. Tiffany?

    Tiffany: 5/18…1954.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Okay, 1958. So this one was published in the newspaper right after—what happened in 1954?

    Student: Brown v. Board of Education.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Brown v. Board of Education. This one was published four years later. So right after Brown v. Board of Education Virginia said, "What do we do?" Four years later, Virginia's got a plan. And the plan is—what do we call it?

    Students: Massive resistance.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Does anyone else know the answer because I heard two people say it? What's the plan?

    Students: Massive resistance.

    Stacy Hoeflich: Massive resistance. And who led the plan?

    Students: Harry Bird

    Stacy Hoeflich: Harry Bird. Good! Any questions?

    Stacy Hoeflich: When I was researching I actually found a lot of different cartoons from Fred Seibel. I thought one of the interesting things would be to give them the massive resistance…the Monitor and the Merrimack cartoon. Give them that one as a homework assignment and say, "Here it is, tell me what it's saying and pick out five symbols and tell me what you think those symbols mean."

    Another one, which is a little bit more intricate, would be to have them draw a cartoon showing the opposite. Like how could you use the same sort of symbols if you were showing a cartoon for people who were gung-ho to integrate? Could you use the same actual thing and just change the expression on his face to make him happy. Yes, it’s rough seas, know, so how could you draw a cartoon that shows that using the man, the boat, and the water?

    Another thing I came up with was the idea of protest posters and this book—which I love—its Toni Morrison’s Remember. Very few words, very unbelievably moving pictures. So some of these pictures, "I can't go to school because of segregation," “Our children play together, why can't they learn together?" And on the other page here, it's the white children: "We the pupils of this school, Clinton High, don't want negroes in our school," "We won't go to school with negroes," "Strike against integration." So I thought it would be interesting to have them make a poster, either protesting Brown v. Board of Ed or in support of Brown v. Board of Ed.

This website features 4th graders analyzing two political cartoons from the Richmond Times-Dispatch about Virginia's reaction to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. This standards-based lesson guides students in exploring the Virginia state policy of massive resistance to school desegregation. This video provides examples of two promising practices:

  • Modeling careful analysis of a primary source while practicing historical thinking with young students;
  • Using scaffolding and concrete instructional strategies to guide students in shaping meaning out of multiple primary sources.
The Lesson in Action

Video of the lesson shows the teacher modeling primary source analysis with the first cartoon and students working in pairs to interpret a second on their own. Both cartoons—one published in 1954 and the other in 1958—are drawn by Fred O. Siebel. They use similar imagery and symbolism, helping students analyze the second cartoon and compare the two. Through effective scaffolding and modeling of historical thinking skills, the teacher engages students in thinking about complex historical questions of equality, fairness, and the power of federal and state governments. The lesson concludes with a class discussion of each group's findings and what their analysis means in relation to Virginia and public school desegregation.

Through effective scaffolding and modeling of historical thinking skills, the teacher engages students in thinking about complex historical questions of equality, fairness, and the power of federal and state governments.

This lesson comes at the end of a unit on civil rights, segregation, desegregation, and massive resistance in Virginia. Students at this point have an understanding of segregation, Jim Crow laws, and the individuals Thurgood Marshal and former Virginia Governor Harry F. Bird, Sr. The teacher uses primary sources in this lesson to assess and review students' understandings of school desegregation and Byrd's Massive Resistance response to the Supreme Court order to integrate schools. At the same time, she engages students in thinking about historical questions of fairness, equality, and reactions to change. You can find a comprehensive lesson plan, complete with primary sources, background information, and classroom worksheets, on the website.