In 1963, during the third and final year of his presidency, John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) faced repeated opposition to his legislative initiatives. Republicans rebuffed his calls for a lasting peace and argued against the signing of a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union. When he wanted to offer tax cuts to reduce economic stagnation, Kennedy fought with his own political party in the Democrat-controlled Congress. His efforts to increase resources for schoolchildren and to protect the wilderness met with resistance from both political parties. Congress resisted most strongly, however, Kennedy’s attempts to improve the lives of African Americans.

Herblock, the nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist for the Washington Post newspaper, had a front row seat on the Civil Rights Movement, which gained momentum through the March on Washington that took place on August 28, 1963. Emphasizing that the United States was built and maintained on documents that called for equality, he chastised whites who used violence to reinforce a second-class status for African Americans. Herblock insisted that progress depended on improvement for everyone.

“Reminds Me of That Crazy Idea of Henry Ford’s That You Can Make More Selling at Lower Prices”

Herblock criticized the conservative reaction to President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 State of the Union message by pointing out that if rich men couldn’t see how successful Henry Ford had been by selling more cars at lower prices, then they couldn’t be expected to understand Kennedy’s economic stimulus idea either. Kennedy believed that cutting the income tax rate from a 20–90 percent to the 14–65 percent range would stimulate the stagnant economy. Republicans urged the president instead to reduce spending. They pointed to the failure of foreign aid to compel communist countries toward democracy and argued that domestic spending only increased the number of people enrolled in welfare.

Reminds Me of That Crazy Idea of Henry Ford’s That You Can Make More Selling at Lower Prices,” 1963. Published in the Washington Post, January 20, 1963. Graphite, ink brush, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (001.04.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05773] © Herb Block Foundation

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“We Can’t Burden Our Children with Deficit Spending”

By portraying a schoolchild weighed down by ignorance, poverty, and crime, Herblock objected to the resistance from Republican legislators to the Kennedy administration’s omnibus education bill, the National Education Improvement Act of 1963. Opposition to the 4.6-billion-dollar proposal focused on its cost and the increase to deficit spending. But concern about desegregation, federal involvement in funding education, and support for religious-based education also motivated the opponents. Herblock wrote, “Otherwise bright and influential citizens have yet to establish the connection between ignorance and poverty, education and employment, purchasing power and prosperity.”

We Can’t Burden Our Children with Deficit Spending,” 1963. Published in the Washington Post, January 31, 1963. Ink brush, graphite, opaque white, and overlay over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (002.04.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05781] © Herb Block Foundation

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“As I Was Saying, a Test Ban Agreement Might Have Resulted in a Fatal Gap”

By depicting Republican Party presidential hopeful Barry Goldwater (1909–1998) as a skeleton standing on the edge of a nuclear missile crater, Herblock argued that the “fatal gap” Goldwater had described would exist even if nuclear testing continued. Herblock agreed with the Kennedy administration’s support of a nuclear test ban agreement with the Soviet Union, while Goldwater believed that the United States should develop anti-ballistic missiles and spend less effort on a non-military space race.

As I Was Saying, a Test Ban Agreement Might Have Resulted in a Fatal Gap,” 1963. Published in the Washington Post, August 14, 1963. Ink brush, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (003.04.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05913] © Herb Block Foundation

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“Make Yourself Comfy in Our Little Lodge”

To accuse Colorado Democat Wayne Aspinall (1896–1983) of the House Interior Committee of killing the 1963 Wilderness Bill, Herblock drew an elderly lodge keeper beckoning a hiker indoors where a certain death awaits him. Because Aspinall challenged the ability of the executive branch to set aside millions of acres of land for public recreation, arguing that it was the right of Congress, Herblock singled him out for caricature. While the measure passed in the Senate, the actions of the House’s Interior Committee effectively ended it.

Make Yourself Comfy in Our Little Lodge,” 1963. Published in the Washington Post, April 11, 1963. Graphite, ink brush, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (004.04.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05829] © Herb Block Foundation

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“Who Said Anything About Driving Out Castro? We’re Talking About Kennedy”

Everett Dirksen (1896–1969) the Republican senator from Illinois, stated in a press conference about Cuba, “Mr. President, I think you should know we’re going to continue to pummel you about Cuba. There are going to be some brickbats thrown at you and not of the embroidered kind.” Herblock perceived the speech as an attempt to undermine the Kennedy administration internationally because Dirksen did not support either Kennedy’s blockade of Cuba or a physical attack on Castro. The cartoon’s imaginary back-room Republican Party strategy meeting presented generic images of legislators.

Who Said Anything about Driving out Castro? We’re Talking about Kennedy,” 1963. Published in the Washington Post, February 26, 1963. Graphite, ink brush, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (005.04.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05799] © Herb Block Foundation

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“You Know What? A Lot of People Down Here Are Just Plain Prejudiced Against Us”

Herblock wrote in his 1964 compilation of cartoons, Straight Herblock, “There will continue to be bigots and terrorists who will make it difficult for Negroes to remain patient and nonviolent.” In May 1963, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference held a Children’s Crusade to reinvigorate support for the Civil Rights Movement. The young marchers were blasted by fire hoses, bitten by police dogs, and arrested. A bi-racial committee convinced the city to desegregate stores in Birmingham and end the demonstrations.

You Know What? A Lot of People Down Here Are Just Plain Prejudiced Against Us,” 1963. Published in the Washington Post, May 10, 1963. Ink brush, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (006.04.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05851] © Herb Block Foundation

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“You Don’t Understand, Boy—You’re Supposed to Just Shuffle Along”

Sympathizing with African Americans tired of hearing “It takes time,” Herblock played on southern whites’ fear of change as African Americans used the political system and non-violent demonstrations to empower themselves. Herblock later quoted President John F. Kennedy, “The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as they want to be treated.” National African-American organizations mobilized in 1963 with a new sense of urgency, “Freedom can’t wait.”

You Don’t Understand, Boy—You’re Supposed to Just Shuffle Along,” 1963. Published in the Washington Post, May 15, 1963. Ink brush, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (007.04.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05854] © Herb Block Foundation

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Message to Congress

Finding inspiration in the 1776 Declaration of Independence, Herblock echoed President John F. Kennedy’s request that Congress pass the Civil Rights Act and make the words “all men are created equal” ring true for America’s African-American citizens. On June 20, 1963, Kennedy called for federal legislation on key points, including voting, desegregation in public schools and facilities, and better employment opportunities for African Americans.

Message to Congress, 1963. Published in the Washington Post, June 21, 1963. Graphite, ink brush and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (008.04.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05878] © Herb Block Foundation

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“In This Boat We’re All Integrated”

By illustrating the idiomatic expression “We’re all in the same boat,” Herblock supported President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 Civil Rights omnibus legislation, which included the Federal Fair Employment Practices Commission. Because one of the key issues for the 1963 March on Washington was job fairness, Kennedy pinned his hopes on Congress’s passing a labor bill prior to the August 28 event. Several leaders advocated for the bill, arguing that access to well-paying jobs for African Americans would improve the economy overall.

In This Boat We’re All Integrated,” 1963. Published in the Washington Post, August 7, 1963. Graphite, ink brush, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (009.04.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05908] © Herb Block Foundation

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Conceived in Liberty and Dedicated to the Proposition That All Men are Created Equal. . . .

Quoting Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Herblock depicted African Americans and whites standing together before the Lincoln Memorial in this cartoon published on the eve of the March on Washington in 1963. At the rally, standing before a crowd of 250,000 people, Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. Herblock supported the demands for economic equality and an end to segregation and discrimination. He also recognized how frustration had grown in the century since Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation because civil rights legislation had not passed.

Conceived in Liberty and Dedicated to the Proposition That All Men are Created Equal. . . , 1963. Published in the Washington Post, August 27, 1963. Graphite, India ink, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (010.04.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05922] © Herb Block Foundation

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