Herb Block at the Library of Congress for the opening of the
exhibit, October 16, 2000.
From the stock market crash in 1929
through the new millennium beginning in the year 2000, editorial
cartoonist Herb Block has chronicled the nation's political history,
caricaturing twelve American presidents from Herbert Hoover to Bill
Clinton. He has received three Pulitzer Prizes for editorial cartooning
(1942, 1954, and 1979) and a fourth with Washington Post
colleagues for public service during the Watergate investigation
(1973). He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
and in 1994 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2000,
the Library of Congress named him a "Living Legend" in recognition
of his extraordinary contributions to the nation. Numerous honorary
degrees from institutions nationwide, most recently a 1999 Doctor
of Arts from Harvard University, suggest academia has forgiven him
for leaving college early to pursue a career as an editorial cartoonist.
And well it should, for no cartoonist or commentator in America
has done more to educate and inform the public during the past seven
decades than Herb Block.
It is my great pleasure, as friend
and admirer, to introduce this first exhibition of his original
drawings in fifty years. Herblock's History celebrates
his gift to the Library of Congress of more than one hundred works,
spanning seventy years of world history and the astonishing breadth
of his distinguished career. Political cartoons represent the freedom
of expression inherent in American democracy, echoing the Library
of Congress' Bicentennial theme of "Libraries, Creativity, and Liberty."
On the cusp of a new millennium Herb Block's drawings forcefully
bring back the principal issues and events that shaped our world
during the past century.
Herb Block and James H. Billington,
the Librarian of Congress
The sign of a great cartoonist is
the ability to effect change, and Herb Block has influenced politicians
and altered public opinion throughout his career. He coined the
phrase "McCarthyism," effectively challenging the excesses of the
anticommunist campaigns of the late 1940s and early 1950s. He followed
Richard Nixon's political path from his House reelection campaign
in 1950 to his resignation as president of the United States in
1974. He documented the Cold War from its inception after World
War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1994. Furthermore,
his numerous powerful cartoons on poverty, race relations, and education
not only express his personal commitment to civil rights but measure
over time the nation's response to such issues.
In tens of thousands of drawings
published in newspapers over the years Herb Block has offered trenchant
graphic commentary on virtually every notable incident and public
figure from the Depression forward, portraying our history from
his usually prescient, sometimes tragic, often funny, and always
intelligent perspective. His drawings are his legacy, a monumental
contribution to the profession of journalism and to future understanding
of the times in which we live. The Library takes great pride in
preserving them for posterity on behalf of the American people.
James H. Billington
The Librarian of Congress