Thomas Nast, in the midst of the ratification of the Reconstruction Era amendments, used “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner” to reflect the current events and sentiments of the time period. At the center of the table, Nast labelled the centerpieces as “self governance” and “universal suffrage,” reflecting the ideas behind the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments—which were ratified in 1865, 1868, and 1870, respectively. These concepts were prevalent in the 1860s, especially among black Americans who finally tasted freedom after hundreds of years of enslavement. Furthermore, underneath the portraits of presidents Lincoln and Grant are the inscribed words, “with malice towards none and charity to all” and “peace...
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...ericans at the top while other non-white racial groups make up the bulk, as well as the bottom, of the hierarchy.
Although Thomas Nast and G.F. Keller used similar techniques in creating their political cartoons, their illustrations of “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner” elicited polar opposite opinions. Nast, caught in the ideals of Reconstruction and emancipation, showed the public a racial hierarchy that made all Americans “free and equal.” Keller, embittered by the growing threat of a foreign labor force, publicized a racial hierarchy where all racial groups were valued below white Americans. The progression from Nast’s perspectives to Keller’s touches on two patterns in American sentiment throughout history: black Americans normally lay at the bottom of the racial hierarchy, and all are welcome in the land of opportunity until the opportunities begin to run out.
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