How to Analyze Visual Sources

Visual sources include items such as photos, artwork, and cartoons, such as the political cartoon from 1841 below.

Pro-Slavery Cartoon (1841)

This pro-slavery cartoon from 1841 compares the lives of slaves to those of the working class in England, though the camparison could also be interpreted as an indictment of the growing industrial working class in America, which was concentrated in New England. It was a popular argument of the day that American slaves were offered better protection and quality of life than industrial workers.

Since this is a primary source document, we still need to answer the same seven questions. However, here we must consider the text as well as the visual elements. Read the text carefully and examine the details of both drawings. Click on the areas marked in the cartoon as you assess the source.

Click on the yellow rectangles to view a detail and caption.

Pro-Slavery Cartoon, 1841. Collection of the New York Historical Society.

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