This is a guest post by Sara W. Duke, curator of popular and applied graphic art in the Prints and Photographs Division. She highlights three of the 10 new cartoons installed this spring the Herblock Gallery of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building. New drawings from the Library’s extensive Herbert L. Block Collection are introduced into the exhibition every six months.
The Herblock Gallery in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress now offers visitors an opportunity to examine the heady year 1968 through the eyes of a cartoonist. Herb Block – better known to newspaper readers as Herblock – drew editorial cartoons for the Washington Post from 1946 to 2001. Fifty years ago, he reacted to events and issues we continue to wrestle with today: the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War and the election of Richard M. Nixon.
Refusing to shy away from controversy, Herblock used the power of his pen with bitter anger six days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis on April 4, 1968, to lambast the National Rifle Association and gun dealers.
While one might expect cartoons on Vietnam, civil rights and poverty in an exhibition about 1968, Herblock also addressed the issue of trade protection. The textile industry was pushing Congress to pass protective tariffs, much to the dismay of President Lyndon Johnson and his administration, which feared international retaliation aimed at other American products.
The biggest issue of 1968 was the presidential election. Democratic Party candidate Eugene McCarthy’s surprising upset in the New Hampshire primary led President Johnson not to seek a second term. Instead of coming together and uniting behind one candidate, the Democratic Party split – a fracture that did not heal after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy during the California primary on June 5, 1965. Richard M. Nixon emerged as the leader of the Republican Party during the primaries. From the time Nixon was elected to Congress in 1948, Herblock had portrayed him with a five o’clock shadow, a symbol of his mud-slinging politics. When he refused a televised debate with the Democratic Party candidate Hubert Humphrey, Herblock extended his shadow metaphor.
To learn more about the Herbert L. Block Collection – and to view many more examples of Herblock’s work – view the collection online.