Detail from Herblock's Except for Those of Us Who are Above It.

During the 1970s, Herb Block brought attention to such issues as education, poverty, and other social injustices. He satirized presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. His images defined world events that shaped the era, such as those that led to the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow and the abduction of American hostages by the followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran.

"Remember -- don't vote for anyone who would interfere with the way we've been handling things"

In a televised address on October 15, 1974, President Gerald Ford appealed to Americans to mobilize in the fight against inflation, suggesting a list of voluntary individual measures. His "Whip Inflation Now" campaign was called WIN but turned out to be a loser. Federal Reserve Chairman Arthur Burns had announced that the nation was in a recession, despite Ford's insistence to the contrary. Ford campaigned for Republican congressmen and senators, urging support for candidates who supported his fight against inflation.

"Remember--don't vote for anyone who would interfere with the way we've been handling things," October 30, 1974. Ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (81) LC-USZ62-126922

"... One nation ... indivisible ..."

On February 22, 1977, newly-elected President Jimmy Carter submitted his budget to Congress. It included an additional $350 million in school aid for poor children; extra millions in grants and work-study programs for college students; and sought a reduction in congressional funds for school districts with large numbers of federal employees. Herb Block's cartoon is a reminder of the divisions in one nation.

"... One nation ... indivisible ...," February 22, 1977 Ink, graphite, and opaque white, with tonal film overlay and porous point pen over graphite underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (83) LC-USZ62-126888

"Read me what it says, Dad"

In Herblock on All Fronts, the cartoonist wrote:"Depreciation in dollars, in products, and in entertainment has also extended to education. Here it is not a case of the fast buck but of the fast bucking-the-kid-along-to-the-next-grade. It produces graduates who can hardly make their way through a phone book or figure the cost of four twenty-five-cent items in a grocery store."

"Read me what it says, Dad," June 8, 1977. Ink, crayon, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (84) LC-USZ62-126885

"This here country ain't big enough for both of us"

In 1977, a severe fuel shortage caused by an OPEC decrease in production, along with increased pollution and growing fears of global warming, caused Americans to rethink energy use. Yet the government was slow to carry out the 1970 Clean Air Act, and the automobile industry pressured Congress to extend the deadline further. In 1977, the Act was amended to give both states and automakers still more time to reduce emissions. Gas-guzzling SUVs and light trucks were not held to the standards of ordinary cars and were later given till 2004 and beyond to reduce their polluting.

"This here country ain't big enough for both of us," July 27, 1977. Ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (85) LC-USZ62-126936

"Except for those of us who are above it"

In 1977, the U.S. District Court tried a former CIA head for failing to report accurately the extent to which the spy organization was active in Chile. The House Judiciary subcommittee on civil and constitutional rights probed the FBI. The chairman questioned whether it was "appropriate to keep thousands of Americans under surveillance, [involving] everything they do, interviewing their employers, just because two or three people say they're going to stage a demonstration." Herb Block comments, "Unwarranted secret operations and snooping in the interest of 'security' have contributed to making Americans feel less secure."

"Except for those of us who are above it,". November 2, 1977. Ink, graphite, porous point pen, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (86) LC-USZ62-126884

"We rub these sticks together till we strike a spark ... wekeep rubbing these sticks together ... we take these sticks ..."

As U.S. dependence on foreign oil grew, President Jimmy Carter focused on energy conservation. He called his energy campaign the "moral equivalent of war," which critics shortened to "MEOW." In his 1978 State of the Union message, Carter reiterated the need for an energy bill, but could not rally support. The Reagan Administration scuttled the policy, even removing the solar panels Carter had installed in the White House. A generation later, the U.S. imports half of its oil from abroad, and has requested OPEC members to lower prices by increasing exports.

"We rub these sticks together till we strike a spark ... we keep rubbing these sticks together ... we take these sticks ...," February 1, 1978. Ink, graphite, crayon, porous point pen, opaque white, and overlays over graphite underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (87) LC-USZ62-126886

"Ah, Independence Day -- The glorious Fourth! Do see that the natives get a nice fireworks display"

As a resident of Washington, DC since 1946, Herb Block has actively supported the political interests of the half million or so residents of the District of Columbia. Herb Block comments:"The residents of the District of Columbia pay the Federal income tax and a D.C. income tax that is higher than that of almost any state. And they are required to fulfill the same calls to duty including military service as other Americans. But they have no voting representation on the floor of either house of Congress."

"Ah, Independence Day--The glorious Fourth! Do see that the natives get a nice fireworks display," June 30, 1978. Ink, graphite, crayon, porous point pen, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (89) LC-USZ62-126934

Moscow Olympics 1980

On July 14, 1978, the Soviet government imprisoned Anatoly Shcharansky, a dissident accused of supplying secret material to a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. The trial began on July 10, just two days before the start of U.S.-Soviet strategic arms limitation talks in Geneva. The trial captured public attention because Shcharansky had been promoting the cause of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union. In addition, Shcharansky's countryman Alexander Ginzburg, manager of a fund for political prisoners, received a sentence of hard labor on July 13. President Jimmy Carter spoke out against the trials but said that American athletes would not boycott the Moscow Olympics. He reversed this decision in 1980 after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

Moscow Olympics 1980, July 19, 1978. Ink, graphite, crayon, porous point pen, and opaque white, over graphite and blue pencil underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (90) LC-USZ62-126929

Spiritual leader

The Shah of Iran, Reza Shah Pahlavi, left his country on January 16, 1979 paving the way for a new government led by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. On April 1, 1979, Khomeini established an Islamic republic in Iran, calling it "the first day of the government of God." Revolutionary fervor ran high as armed vigilante bands and kangaroo courts made bloody work of the Shah's last partisans and what remained of the secular left. Under Khomeini's fanatic rule, firing squads summarily carried out death sentences. His followers seized the American embassy and numerous hostages on November 4, 1979.

Spiritual leader, April 8, 1979. Ink, crayon, porous point pen, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (91) LC-USZ62-126933

"Rosalynn, it's him again"

Herb Block's commentary on the 1980 contest for the Democratic presidential nomination recalls a popular contemporary Gillette television commercial of a two-sided bathroom cabinet. On September 11, 1979, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts announced his intention to run for president against the Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter unless there was "improvement in the economy or at least a perception of improvement by the American people." Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill encouraged Kennedy to run, which he did unsuccessfully.

"Rosalynn, it's him again," September 12, 1979. Ink, graphite, crayon, porous point pen, and opaque white, over blue pencil underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (92) LC-USZ62-126932

Back to top