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September 27

Thomas Nast was born on this day in 1840.

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Thomas Nast was born on this day in 1840.

Grades 9 – 12
Calendar Activity Type Historical Figure & Event





Thomas Nast was born on September 27, 1840. He was a 19th- century caricaturist and editorial cartoonist and is considered to be the father of American political cartooning. During the Civil War and Reconstruction era, Nast was well known for his cartoons supporting American Indians, Chinese Americans, and the abolition of slavery. Some of the images and icons he created or popularized include the Republican Party elephant, the Democratic Party donkey, and Uncle Sam.




Political cartoons, because of their powerful means of communicating the artists' message, are subject to "freedom of speech" protections. Have students create their own political cartoons after studying First Amendment rights and freedom of speech issues.

  • First, explore free speech issues and the First Amendment using resources on this EDSITEment Freedom of Speech Week webpage. Ask students the following: "What constitutes free speech? When does one's freedom of speech become an infringement on another person's rights? How do political cartoonists exercise their first amendment rights?"
  • Then, after completing one or more of the lessons below, ask students to comb the newspaper or Internet resources and create a list of current events.
  • From this list, have students draw original cartoons using the techniques they've studied.

After students have completed their work, consider having them published in the school newspaper, or share them in the school library.



  • Thomas Nast

    This extensive resource on Nast, offered by The Ohio State University, includes a biography, timeline, portfolio of Nast's cartoons, bibliography of works by and about Nast, and a teacher's guide. Also included is an essay titled "The World of Thomas Nast."

  • Freedom of Speech Week

    EDSITEment offers this collection of lesson plans and other resources on free speech and the First Amendment.

  • Political Cartoons

    The Library of Congress offers this resource about political cartoons for teachers, including collections of historical political cartoons on American and British topics.

  • Nothing but the Truth and Students' First Amendment Rights

    This ReadWriteThink resource links to information about First Amendment issues.


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Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Analyzing the Purpose and Meaning of Political Cartoons

It is important for students to know how to evaluate messages conveyed by the news media. Exploration of the artistic techniques used in political cartoons leads to critical questioning.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Analyzing the Stylistic Choices of Political Cartoonists

Students explore and analyze the techniques that political (or editorial) cartoonists use and draw conclusions about why the cartoonists choose those techniques to communicate their messages.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Argument, Persuasion, or Propaganda? Analyzing World War II Posters

Students analyze World War II posters, as a group and then independently, to explore how argument, persuasion and propaganda differ.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

The Comic Book Show and Tell

Students craft comic scripts using clear, descriptive, and detailed writing that shows (illustrates) and tells (directs). After peers create an artistic interpretation of the script, students revise their original scripts.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

What Are My Rights? Exploring and Writing About the Constitution

Students speak up in this lesson about rights, examining the Constitution in the context of issues that affect their everyday lives.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Freedom of Speech and Automatic Language: Examining the Pledge of Allegiance

This lesson has students explore freedom of speech by examining the Pledge of Allegiance from a historical and personal perspective and in relationship to fictional situations in novels.


Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Exploring Free Speech and Persuasion with Nothing But the Truth

Students read Avi's Nothing But the Truth and examine the First Amendment and student rights, and then decide whether the rights of the novel's protagonist, Philip, are violated.