Fred Seibel, the Times-Dispatch, and Massive Resistance
Author: Stacy Hoeflich
School: John Adams Elementary
Grade Level: 4th
Time Estimated: 1 day (60 minute period)
“Massive Resistance” is the name given to the movement, led by Harry F. Byrd, Sr. of Virginia, against the integration of public schools. The idea, as fourth graders need to understand it, is simple. In 1954, Brown v. BOE mandated that “separate but equal” public schools were unconstitutional, and therefore all public schools in Virginia were ordered to integrate. Rather than integrate the public schools, Virginia’s government sought to “resist” integration by establishing a policy of Massive Resistance, which literally closed the public schools to avoid integration. The state and federal supreme courts declared this resistance policy unconstitutional by 1959, but Prince Edward County refused to cooperate, and closed their public schools from 1959-1964. Instead, Prince Edward County, funded in part by donations from segregation supporters all over the south, opened an all white private school. In the middle of these turbulent years, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the most commonly read paper in Virginia whose audience was white Virginia, had an editorial bent that supported Massive Resistance and the “Byrd Machine.” Thus, Fred Seibel’s editorial cartoons on Massive resistance reflect the editorial perspective of the Times-Dispatch, and of much of white Virginia in the 1950s.
In this lesson, students will:
- Analyze two primary source editorial cartoons on the topic of desegregation and Massive Resistance from the Richmond Times-Dispatch and determine their meaning
- Identify the 1954-1964 editorial perspective of the Times-Dispatch and how these two Seibel cartoons support that perspective
- Identify the role of the media in political and social movements
- Identify the policy of “Massive Resistance” (i.e. closing public schools to avoid integration) as part of Virginia’s fight against Brown v. Board of Education mandated desegregation
- Identify Harry F. Byrd, Sr. as a leader of the Massive Resistance movement in Virginia
Virginia Standards of Learning
VS1: The student will develop skills for historical and geographical analysis including the ability to:
a) identify and interpret artifacts and primary and secondary source documents to understand events in history;
b) determine cause and effect relationships;
c) compare and contrast historical events;
d) draw conclusions and make generalizations;
e) make connections between past and present;
f) sequence events in Virginia history;
g) interpret ideas and events from different historical perspectives;
h) evaluate and discuss issues orally and in writing;
i) analyze and interpret maps to explain relationships among landforms, water features, climatic characteristics, and historical events.
VS 9.b: The student will demonstrate knowledge of twentieth century Virginia by:
a) identifying the social and political events in Virginia linked to desegregation and Massive Resistance and their relationship to national history:
- Terms to know
- Desegregation: Abolishment of racial segregation
- Integration: Full equality of all races in the use of public facilities
- Desegregation and Massive Resistance in Virginia
- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1954 (Brown v. Board of Education) that “separate but equal” public schools were unconstitutional.
- All public schools, including those in Virginia, were ordered to integrate.
- Virginia’s government established a policy of Massive Resistance, which fought to “resist” the integration of public schools.
- Some schools were closed to avoid integration.
- The policy of Massive Resistance failed, and Virginia’s public schools were integrated.
- Harry F. Byrd, Sr., led a Massive Resistance Movement against the integration of public schools.
- Current “A” section of the Washington Post (or other wide distribution newspaper) with the editorial page included
- Student copies of the two cartoons
- Cartoon analysis worksheet packet
Note: My students will have already studied Jim Crow laws and the Brown v. BOE case in class prior to this lesson. For Jim Crow laws, I do a primary source lesson where the students are given copies of actual Jim Crow laws from many different southern states, which show examples of segregation in many different relationships, events, and places. For Brown v. BOE we read the Thurgood Marshall book listed in the bibliography below. The Toni Morrison book is also a good way to introduce the idea that the white southerners were not willing to accept the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court. My students will already know the term “Massive Resistance ” and know Harry Byrd Sr. before this lesson. The objective of this lesson is to reinforce and expand their understanding from previous lessons.)
- The teacher will pair the students with their social studies “buddies” (I use a high/low pairing).
- T. shows a current editorial page of today’s newspaper (I use the Washington Post) and leads a short discussion on the editorial pages and editorial/political cartoons, and how they convey the opinions of the readership and the editors of the newspaper (as a “heads-up,” be prepared to discuss “conservative” and “liberal” because my fourth graders did not really grasp these concepts easily).
- T. then gives each pair a copy of the Massive Resistance cartoon analysis packet, and clarifies directions and how to use the table.
- T. hands out the 1954 Seibel cartoon and models the process of analyzing what they see using the table. For example: “I see a giant rock in the middle of the ocean. I would write “rock” on the left side of the chart. I think the rock is meant to show a big problem, so on the right side of the table I would write “big problem.” In this discussion, I would be sure to highlight the rock, the ship and school building, the man, the man’s expression, the ocean, the date, and the title “now what.” As I worked through the cartoon and leading the discussion, I tried to have the students become gradually more and more in charge of what they saw and wrote, so they were prepared to work independently on the second cartoon. By the time the students have completed the table and are ready to write the opinion or “message” of the cartoon, they could complete that on their own. (I found this process to work well for my students because they did not have a strong background in “reading” editorial cartoons. If your students do have this foundation, feel free to skip right to the independent activity with the first cartoon (step 5) rather than having a teacher led analysis.)
- T. hands out 1958 Seibel cartoon.
- Students discuss with their buddies and complete the table in the handout. They should have about 15-20 minutes to complete this table.
- T. circulates to all pairs multiple times, stopping regularly to comment on an intuitive question or observation. (These two cartoons work very well together because they have the same sets of symbols. This relationship is especially significant with the man, the ship – though it has changed names, the ocean, and the sky. If you take the time to walk through the first cartoon together as a class and you point out these symbols and what they represent, the students will use that modeling to figure out the meaning in the second cartoon.)
- After about 15-20 minutes, T. encourages students to complete the two questions in the packet about the general meaning or opinion in the cartoon. Students should also complete the two questions that compare the two cartoons together.
- T. brings the students all together for a wrap-up discussion (15-20 minutes) to share observations and draw conclusions. (I start with asking the students to share their thoughts on the “meaning” or opinion being expressed in the cartoon. You’re looking for them to see that, from the perspective of those who supported Massive Resistance, the south saw integration as an impermanent problem, one that didn’t need to be addressed beyond a “wait it out” philosophy. In a nutshell, the south didn’t want to integrate, and they really didn’t think they had to, even though they had been ordered to do so by the U.S. Supreme Court. The policy of Massive Resistance was a way to wait and stall until the problem was fixed. A good analogy for fourth graders here might be to ask the students if they have ever been asked to do a chore at home, like “clean your room” or “do the dishes,” and if they have ever successfully stalled or disappeared or made excuses long enough that they got out of having to do the chore. In order to facilitate the discussion, have students share their thoughts on what the most important symbol in the cartoon for conveying the message is to them. For me, it is the depiction of integration as a “storm” because I know that no matter how scary or rough the weather may get, it will always pass. If we know a hurricane is coming, we can board up the windows and batten down the hatches, but once it passes, we can go about life as normal. That’s what I see happening in this cartoon. From my own perspective, it’s an insult to the weight and authority of the United States Supreme Court to characterize it as a “passing storm.”
- Have students pretend they are editorial cartoonists for a newspaper that supports integration. Have them use the same or similar symbols to draw a cartoon supporting integration (desegregation) of schools.
- Have students complete a similar cartoon analysis packet or an abbreviated sheet using one of the other Seibel Massive Resistance Cartoons. (see http://www.vahistorical.org/civilrights/massiveresistance.htm for two more Seibel cartoons. One uses the Monitor and Merrimack battle for the analogy of the desegregation struggle, and since the battle of the Monitor and Merrimack is also 4th grade curriculum and they will already have studied it, I would use this cartoon first.)
- Have students write a skit of an imaginary conversation between Thurgood Marshall (as lead council for the NAACP on Brown) and Harry F. Byrd, Sr. on the topic of desegregation. If your students don’t know who Marshall is, there is a good biography listed in the annotated bibliography below, or they can just have it be a conversation between Martin Luther King Jr. and Byrd instead.
- Have the students write a letter to the editor of the 1950s Times-Dispatch telling the editor the opposing opinion of the cartoons.
- Have students read/research more information on Harry F. Byrd, Sr., and write a short biography.
- Have students create protest posters supporting and opposed to Brown.
- Have students write a letter to the Prince Edward County School Board explaining why schools should not be closed to students.
- Have students read the textbook lesson about Byrd and Massive Resistance and answer the questions at the end of the lesson. There is also a workbook page that goes with the lesson.
- Have students interview a grandparent or adult in the community who was alive during segregation and desegregation and share their oral history report with the class. Depending on the situation, this can be an extension activity instead where students can work in pairs or small groups, and the interviewees can be provided by the teacher.
- Have students analyze an editorial cartoon from a current newspaper on a current topic.
- High-low pairings for Social Studies buddies
- Visual primary source (rather than text) for ESL or limited English proficient students (including Learning Disabled)
- Hands-on experience with the cartoons for visual and kinesthetic learners
- Class discussion for aural learners
- Extension and re-teaching options in homework choices
- Teacher observation during pair/share and whole group discussion
- Cartoon analysis packet
- Any of the above “homework options”
- Unit test
Books & Media