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Learn about political cartoons and their place in history

By Gretchen Beilfuss Witt

Rowan Public Library

Political cartoons have been part and parcel of American and much of Western culture for the last 200 years. Interestingly, according to Stephen Hess and Sandy Northrop, authors of “Drawn & Quartered: The History of American Political Cartoons,” founding father Ben Franklin was both the first cartoonist and the first public figure to be ridiculed by cartoon.

“Political Cartooning is a symbolic art. The symbols are a shorthand, a convenience …” both for the artist and the audience. Many cartoons feature caricatures of famous people as well as symbols that have become representative because of their use in cartoons.

Thomas Nast, illustrating for Harper’s Weekly in the 1870s, not only brought worldwide attention to the corruption of city government with his many depictions of “Boss” Tweed and other Tammany Hall politicians, he is also credited with the icon of the elephant representing the Republican party.

The task of a political cartoonist is to comment, to have an opinion, not to illustrate the news. Hess and Northrop take us from the beginnings of American national identity, including the creation Uncle Sam, through the end of 20th century in which folks become more concerned with political correctness and being offended than in using cartoon to begin a dialogue.

The authors look at the artists and the publications with which they were often associated as well as the history of how these talented folk managed to “reduce a complex issue to a simple cartoon presented in a tiny box.”

Flemming Rose’s “Tyranny of Silence” takes a more in-depth look at this trend of self-censorship by cartoonists and the media. Rose is the editor of the Danish paper which commissioned and printed cartoons about Islam in 2005 offending some of the Muslim community and creating a global controversy.

He states he was prompted to commission these cartoons by his “perception of self-censorship by the European media.” He continues by expressing his experiences and why he feels so strongly that the true issue is about freedom of speech. Rose reflects that everyone has the right to tell their story in their own way.

He asks, “Should we be unable to criticize cultures that still adhere to those (unpopular) practices because they are minorities?” He indicates that living in a democracy does not give you the right not to be offended and that perhaps a little more training in tolerance, rather than sensitivity, might be more useful in having a multicultural society coexist peacefully. This is certainly a thought-provoking book, having its origin in a global reaction to political cartoons.

For many the idea of Dr. Seuss and his artwork brings to mind the delightful and whimsical images of Whoville or “Green Eggs and Ham.”   However, a rarer treat is in store. Library patrons will have an opportunity to sample Dr. Seuss’ political cartoons created during the 1940s.

Theodor Geisel had strong views regarding American policy on non-involvement in the war, as well as the New Deal policies of FDR. He began drawing political cartoons well before the U.S. officially entered World War II in December 1941. Italian fascism led him to draw his first published political cartoon for PM magazine in 1941 and he continued until accepting a commission in the U.S. Army in 1943.

Geisel’s cartoons for PM expressed his views against fascism, anti-Semitism and bigotry. For a more complete listing of his cartoons and information relating to his drawings, Richard H. Minear’s book, “Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodore Seuss Geisel” is available for check out.

Made available through the NC Council on the Holocaust, the library will host a display 14 panels representing the work of Dr. Seuss. The pictures will be displayed in the gallery of the first floor of the headquarters building from March 2-27.

Dr. Seuss Birthday Bash: Monday, 10:30 a.m., headquarters. Children of all ages celebrate Dr. Seuss and his “Day of all Days.” Light refreshments. Program brought to you by Smart Start Rowan in cooperation with Rowan Public Library. Call 704-216-8234 for more information.

Let’s Get Seusssical: South branch, China Grove, March 6, 2 p.m. Children of all ages can celebrate Dr. Seuss and his “Day of all Days.”  Light refreshments. Call 704-216-7728 for more information.

Book Chats for Children: Book discussion group for children in grade two (different grade each month), South only, March 5, 4:15 p.m., “Stink and the World’s Worst Super Stinky Sneakers” by Megan McDonald. Registration required; space limited. Call 704-216-7728 for more information. March 19, 4:15 p.m., grades four and five, discussing “Grant Torelli” by Sharon Creech.

Rescheduled annual chocolate festival for teens: 6:30 p.m., headquarters, March 10, 6:30 p.m. Free, open to middle and high school teens. Light refreshments. For more information call 704-216-8229.

Computer classes: If you’re new to computers or never felt comfortable, Computer Basics is for you. Classes are free. Sessions: 90 minutes. Class size limited and on a first come, first served basis. Dates and times subject to change without notice. Call 704-216-8242 for more information. Headquarters, March 10, 7 p.m.; March 26, 9:30 a.m.

Headquarters , Getting to Know Your iPad,  March 24,  7 p.m. Registration required. We’ll discuss components, navigation and use of apps. Must bring own iPad, charged, and have an updated iOS (operating system). Bring current, valid Apple ID. For more info or to register, call Paul Birkhead at 704-216-8242.

Adventure Club: March 14, 11 a.m.:  Adventurous hands-on science based activities and projects for all ages. Theme is “It’s a Bird! It’s a Plan! It’s a Marshmallow.” Design and build marshmallow shooters. Call 704-216-8234 for more details.

MuVchat for teens: All 5:30-7 p.m. Headquarters, March 17; South, March 24; East, March 24. Free and open to middle and high school teens. Enjoy snacks and a movie. For more information call 704-216-8229.

Second Rowan Reading Rendezvous: March 21, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., headquarters. Meet local, regional and national authors. Books available for purchase to benefit Friends of Rowam Public Library. Authors will meet fans, give talks and sign books. See story, this page. Call 704-216-7841 for more information.

It’s Not What You’re Eating, It’s What You’re Not Eating workshop: South branch, China Grove, March 23, 5:45 p.m. In celebration of National Nutrition Month, learn more about protein and nutritional food that will keep you full and energized for the day. Led by Morrison Healthcare, Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. This free workshop is part of the 2015 Learn.Act.Grow. series. Register online or call 704-216-7734 to ensure your spot.

Explorers Club: Headquarters, March 28, 11 a.m. Investigate different genres through activities based on books from the collection. Programs for children in third-fifth grade last one hour. This month’s theme, Go Green with Team Green.  Have fun and gain knowledge about our world with guidance from Rowan County Cooperative Extension. Call 704-216-8234 for more details.

Matthew Weaver and Clay Lunsford in concert: March 31, 7 p.m., Stanback Auditorium, headquarters. These two talented musicians bring bluegrass and country music to a new level with stunning performances on piano and guitar. Admission is free, and all are welcome. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Show sponsored by Friends of Rowan Public Library.

Book Bites Club: March 31, 6:30 p.m., “The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman. Book discussion groups for adults and children at South Rowan Regional Library meet the last Tuesday of each month. Open and anyone is free to join at any time. There is a discussion of the book, as well as light refreshments. For more information, call 704-216-7841.

Displays: Headquarters, log cabins byNorth Hills Christian School; South, stained glass by Betty Corriher and Sandra Collins; East, Kim Davis.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second  language.

Children’s Storytime: Weekly events for children through April 30. For more information call 704-216-8234.

Baby Time — Simple stories and songs for 6-23 month-olds with parent or caregiver. Program about one hour. Headquarters, Wednesdays, 10 a.m.; East, Mondays,  10 a.m.

Toddler Time — Sharing books, singing songs and encouraging listening skills; 18-35 months old with parent or caregiver; 30 minutes. Headquarters, Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.; East, Mondays, 11 a.m.

Tiny Tumblers — Stories, musical scarves and instruments for ages 6-23 months with parent or caregiver. Same program offered twice a week;  30 minutes. South, Tuesday and Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.

Preschool time — Encourages exploration of books and builds reading readiness skills for children 3-5 years old with parent or caregiver; 30 minutes. Headquarters, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.; East, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Noodle Head storytime — For children 4 years and up to enjoy listening to silly books and tales together; 30 minutes. Headquarters, Thursdays, 4 p.m.; South, Mondays, 4 p.m.

Art programs — Based on various themes and media. Activities vary by branch.  Children 8 and under must be accompanied by an adult.; 30-45 minutes. Headquarters, Art in the Afternoon, Thursdays, 4:30 p.m.; East, Emma’s Easel, Thursdays, 4 p.m.; South, Art with Char, Wednesdays, 4 p.m.

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