Casting Ballots


 "The Ignorant Vote..."
  Cartoonist:  Thomas Nast
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   December 9, 1876, p. 985

Click to see a large version of this cartoon...

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
This full-page cover by Thomas Nast appeared a few weeks after the presidential election. It is notable because of the derogatory black caricature by the artist and its placement on the cover of Harper's Weekly. Nast had been an abolitionist and a strong defender of black civil rights during Reconstruction, positions in line with the rest of the publication since late 1863. The artist's previous depiction of blacks was almost uniformly dignified, humane, and sympathetic. Here, however, the black man is a barefooted buffoon who is unfit to vote.

During the 1876 campaign Republican politicians continued to "wave the bloody flag"-that is, to associate the Democratic party with the Confederate cause and with opposition to Reconstruction policies. Pro-Republican cartoonists often accomplished that by portraying the violence that black Americans faced in the South. Unlike other Harper's Weekly cartoonists and his own previous work, Nast did not detail the plight of black Americans in 1876. Instead, he linked Tilden to Tammany Hall and other corrupt ventures, pointed out the conflicting positions of Tilden and Hendricks, and raised the specter of the Catholic Church as a threat to public education.

Nast's belittling sketch of an ape-like Irish-American Catholic, on the other hand, is a typical stereotype used by Nast and other Harper's Weekly cartoonists over the years. The newspaper was vehemently opposed to what it believed was the increasing political and social influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. The difference in this cartoon is that Nast now considers the black vote in the South to be equally inferior with the Irish vote in the North.













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