CAHC Launches Multi-Part Political Cartoon Project

The UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture (CAHC) has received a $10,424 grant award from the Arkansas Humanities Council to launch a multi-part project that focuses on the intersection of politics and cartoons in Arkansas, titled No Laughing Matter: Political Cartoons and the Arkansas Historical Perspective. 

Led by Associate Provost of Collections and Archives Deborah Baldwin, CAHC Assistant Director Kimberly Kaczenski, and Collections and Archives Director of Technology Chad Garrett, the project will involve the creation of a virtual exhibit highlighting the interaction between Arkansas politics, history, and cartoons. This exhibit will feature a selection of original works by local political cartoonists Jon Kennedy (Arkansas Democrat, 1941-1988) and Bill Graham (Arkansas Gazette, 1948-1985). Materials from CAHC collections, such as the Winthrop Rockefeller Collection and Dale Bumpers Gubernatorial Papers, will be used to provide contextual information for the project.

The project is a collaborative effort, with CAHC graduate student assistants Danielle Butler, Jessica Erwin, and Bridget Wood contributing. Dr. Brad Minnick, Associate Professor of English; Dr. Joe Giammo, Associate Professor of Political Science; and Dr. George Jensen, Professor of Rhetoric, will lend their expertise to the analysis and presentation of the cartoons. In addition to the CAHC planning committee, a group of educational consultants, including teachers, will contribute to the programming, creating lesson plans for students and informative guides for visitors.

The cartoons cover a variety of local and national topics, including elections, desegregation, urbanization, and prison reform. However, in their proposal, the project planners emphasized that communicating the subject of political cartoons isn’t generally the artists’ focus: “the cartoons are satire. It is this use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize society’s vices that makes them appeal to the masses.” To explore the messages, applications, and effects of political cartoons, the planning teams will design educational resources that will be free and accessible for visitors and educators alike.

The project will culminate in a half-day symposium dedicated to the intersection of cartoons and political opinion in Arkansas. Scholars from various disciplines will present background material and facilitate discussion during this free event in the fall of 2016. The program organizers hope the input of these scholars, both at the event and throughout the rest of the project, will “guide the viewer to a fuller appreciation of the cartoon images.”

To learn more about the No Laughing Matter: Political Cartoons and the Arkansas Historical Perspective project, please visit the CAHC website.


This project is supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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