Huey "Kingfish" Long (1893-1935), populist politician from Louisiana, died from an assassin's bullet in 1935 at the height of his career. Admired by many for his ambitious programs to build roads, schools, and hospitals, he was also criticized for his autocratic domination of state politics as Governor (1928-32) and U.S. Senator (1932-35). During his memorable 1935 Senate speech, broadcast by radio to a nation experiencing the worst hardships of the Great Depression, he castigated President Franklin Roosevelt and promoted his own "Share Our Wealth" program which promised to tax the rich and limit their income, give everyone a house and a car, provide education for children and comfort for the elderly, and make "every man a king."
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From early in his career, Herblock's legions of faithful readers eagerly awaited his annual Christmas portrayals of Santa Claus, as had fans of his famous cartooning predecessor Thomas Nast two generations before. In December, 1938, as Americans warily witnessed the rise of communism in Europe, Herblock warned against unconstitutional attacks on civil liberties by the House Special Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities and Propaganda in the United States, led by chairman Martin Dies, a Democrat from Texas. Herblock satirically suggests that the Dies Committee might, through the prism of its aggressive anti-communist campaign, see in Santa a potential subversive threat to the American democratic way of life.
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This cartoon is the first of numerous instances in his lengthy career in which Herblock addressed the quest for "Home Rule," or self-government, by residents of Washington, D.C., an issue which began with its creation before 1800 and continues to this day. Herblocktook up the problem with a vengeance just weeks after he moved to the area in January,1946, to begin his new job at the Washington Post. The cartoon specifically refers to the recommendation by a Congressional committee that the House "provide for a referendum on adoption of self-government by city charter." The referendum never took place but finally, in 1973, a Congressional home rule bill passed, providing for the election of a mayor and granting the right to a non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives.
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The end of World War II in Western Europe left millions homeless and helpless in the face of hunger, poverty, and disease. The region's political and economic instability worsened the situation, which contrasted sharply with the relatively ample bounty enjoyed by many Americans once the soldiers came home. Herblock's graphic commentary expresses his support for the Marshall Plan, named for then U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, which was created in summer 1947 to address this disparity through substantial financial aid to the governments and citizens of America's European allies.
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During the 1948 Middle Eastern war, precipitated by a U.N. resolution to partition the British protectorate of Palestine into separate Arab and Israeli states, Herblock took the view that American diplomatic interests were focused on preserving the region's rich oilfields and not its religious sites or antiquities.
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Herblock was a champion of civil rights throughout his career. Eight years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, in the 1954 case of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, he penned this cartoon expressing his dismay at the country's slow progress toward educational integration. In his 1958 book Straight Herblock he wrote, "The racist demagogues and rulers of state fiefdoms need not send to know for whom the school bell tolls. It tolls for them."
I'm eight. I was born on the day of the Supreme Court decision, May 17, 1962 Ink, crayon, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on layered paper Published by the Washington Post. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress (12)
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On August 6, 1965, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act, the second seminal Civil Rights legislation implemented during his administration. The 1965 act shifted oversight authority for elections and voter registration from local or state agencies to the federal government. The Act also banned literacy tests and expanded voting rights for non-English speaking American citizens. Under federal protection, the voting rights of African Americans and other minority ethnic groups were more secure, and Herblock portrayed the event proudly with dignity as a landmark achievement in the ongoing struggle by African Americans for political, economic, and social justice.
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tmTentative steps toward liberalization of Communist policies in the Czechoslovakia, a member country of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact, began in 1967. Shortly thereafter, Alexander Dubchek, new leader of the Czech Communist Party, embarked on a series of reforms aimed at providing "socialism with a human face," and the "democratization" of the political system. His efforts in early 1968 inspired a short-lived "Prague Spring," a period of unprecedented popular dissent. The Soviet leadership, embodied here in the menacing jowls of Premier Leonid Brezhnev, rebuked Dubchek in late June and in August invaded Czechoslovakia, snuffing out the flame of political freedom that burned brightly, but briefly.
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By 1969, in America, the social and economic idealism, promise, and programs of the "New Frontier" and "Great Society" initiatives of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations had been overwhelmed by rising inflation, increasing unemployment, and the burgeoning defense budget established to maintain the war in Vietnam. All of these factors helped "cool off" the nation's economy, causing cut backs in federal support for social services. Throughout his life, Herb Block believed that "the object of government is to do for people what they need to have done but cannot do at all, or cannot do as well for themselves."
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Herblock was a thorn in Richard Nixon's side from the politician's House reelection campaign in 1950 to his resignation as president of the United States in 1974. This image of "Justice" assaulted appeared on October 23, 1973, in the midst of the Watergate scandal, just days after President Nixon ordered the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox who was investigating White House activities. Called the "Saturday Night Massacre," Nixon's rash act angered Congress, resulted in calls for his impeachment, and set the stage for his political demise. It also led directly to the now familiar role of the independent special prosecutor in American presidential politics.
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In early August 1990 Iraqi soldiers under the direction of President Saddam Hussein invaded and annexed neighboring Kuwait, threatening Saudi Arabia and stranding more than 3,000 American citizens. On August 3, U.S. President George Bush identified the "integrity of Saudi Arabia" as a "vital interest," and called the invasion of Kuwait "unacceptable." Initial U.S. military deployment to the Persian Gulf theater of war began on August 7. Prescient as ever, Herblock saw in Hussein's aggressive action the opening salvo of a new global era of tension and hostility played out across the oil rich sands of the Middle East.
Following the latest Secret Service recommendation, May 10, 1995 Ink, crayon, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing on layered paper Published by the Washington Post. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress (21)
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Fear and insecurity in the aftermath of the terrorist bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, led U.S. President Bill Clinton to request from Congress an appropriation of $142 million to investigate the tragedy and increase security measures at the White House and federal buildings in Washington and nationwide.
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Herblock remained a staunch supporter of gun control during his career. By 1999, in the aftermath of an horrific shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in which two disaffected students opened fire on their classmates, it was clear to Americans and Herblock that gun violence could erupt at any time, in any place.
Anywhere, Everywhere, Any Time, All the Time, U.S.A., November 4, 1999 Ink, crayon, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing on layered paper Published by the Washington Post. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress (23)
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Herblock saw the separation of church and state as a fundamental principle of American democracy. In February, 2001, this imaginative rendering of the executive residence expressed his displeasure at U.S. President George W. Bush's creation of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
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This is the last cartoon Herblock drew in his remarkable career. Drawn in August, 2001, he criticizes what he perceives as U.S. President George W. Bush's tendency toward unilateralism in American foreign policy. His satirical swipe alludes to President Theodore Roosevelt's appropriation of an African proverb to describe his approach toward foreign relations: "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."
"It's the speak-loudly-and-poke-'em- with-a-big-stick policy," August 26, 2001 Ink, crayon, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing on layered paper Published by the Washington Post. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress (25)
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