ALEX Lesson Plan


Reading Political Cartoons: Prohibition in Alabama

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Alabama Department of Archives and Hist
System: Informal Education Partner
School: Informal Education Partner
The event this resource created for:Alabama History Education Initiative
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34015


Reading Political Cartoons: Prohibition in Alabama


Students will analyze a primary document:  a postcard from 1909.  It depicts strong prohibition sentiment in Alabama prior to the national ban on alcohol. Students will complete a political cartoon graphic organizer to help them understand the subject, symbols, exaggerations, and opinion of the illustrator.


This cartoon depicts two vultures labeled "Brewers" and "Distillers" around a skeleton that represents Alabama. In the background, an army is advancing, carrying the state flag and a banner labeled "People of Alabama." Several people on the left, who are labeled with the names of newspapers in the state ("Age Herald," "Adv.," and "Mobile Register"), are reprimanding the soldiers: "Go on back! You will ruin business"; "Halt there you fools will scare the birds"; "O! If I only knew which would whip"; "It's time to stop all this agitation."

This lesson was created as a part of the Alabama History Education Initiative, funded by a generous grant from the Malone Family Foundation in 2009.


AuthorInformation:Lesa H. Roberts, Ph.D. (Cohort 1:  2009-2010)

Hampton Cove Middle School Huntsville City Schools Huntsville, AL

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
Social Studies
SS2010 (2010)
Grade: 6
United States Studies: The Industrial Revolution to the Present
2 ) Describe reform movements and changing social conditions during the Progressive Era in the United States.

•  Relating countries of origin and experiences of new immigrants to life in the United States
Example: Ellis Island and Angel Island experiences

•  Identifying workplace reforms, including the eight-hour workday, child labor laws, and workers' compensation laws
•  Identifying political reforms of Progressive movement leaders, including Theodore Roosevelt and the establishment of the national park system
•  Identifying social reforms of the Progressive movement, including efforts by Jane Adams, Clara Barton, and Julia Tutwiler (Alabama)
•  Recognizing goals of the early civil rights movement and the purpose of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
•  Explaining Progressive movement provisions of the Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-first Amendments to the Constitution of the United States
Insight Unpacked Content
Strand: Economics, Geography, History, Civics and Government
Course Title: United States Studies: The Industrial Revolution to the Present
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Describe reform movements and changes in social conditions during the Progressive Era in the U.S.
  • Relate experiences of new immigrants.
  • Identify working conditions before and after workplace reforms.
  • Identify leaders associated with specific political and social reforms.
  • Recognize goals of the early Civil Rights Movement.
  • Explain key details of the Progressive Movement in specific amendments to the Constitution.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • immigrants
  • reforms
  • movements
  • 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 21st amendments origin
  • Progressive Movement
  • Populists
  • temperance
  • trustbuster
  • muckraker
  • repeal
  • Homestead Act
  • child labor
  • corporation
  • civil rights
  • Ellis Island
  • Angel Island
  • workman's compensation
  • Civil Rights Movement
Students will know:
  • Immigrant experiences at Ellis Island and Angel Island. Workplace reforms that took place during the Progressive Era (i.e., 8 hour work day, child labor laws, and workman compensation laws).
  • Key leaders of the Progressive Era that contributed to reforms in the United States (Theodore Roosevelt-National Parks System, Jane Adams-Hull House, Clara Barton-American Red Cross, Julia Tutwiler-Education/Prison Reform).
  • Social reforms of the Progressive Movement.
  • The early goals of the Civil Rights Movement and the purpose of the NAACP and other early civil rights organizations.
  • Provisions of the Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-first Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Students are able to:
  • Identify impacts of historical events.
  • Describe historical movements by comparing and contrasting.
Students understand that:
  • There were causes and the effects, both immediate and lasting, of various reform movements pertaining to immigration, labor, political, social, and constitutional amendments during the Progressive Era in the United States.
Alabama Archives Resources:
Click below to access all Alabama Archives resources aligned to this standard.

Local/National Standards:

National Standards for History1996

Era 7 Standard 1A-Evaluate Progressive attempts at social and moral reform.

Era 7 Standard 1B-Describe how the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th amendments reflected the ideals and goals of Progressivism and the continuing attempt to adapt the founding ideals to a modernized society.

Era 7, Standard 3A- Examine the rise of religious fundamentalism and the clash between traditional moral values and changing ideas as exemplified in the controversy over Prohibition and the Scopes trial.


National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies,(Bulletin 111, 2010)

Standard 2: Time, Continuity, and Change Standard 6: Power, Authority, and Governance Standard 10: Civic Ideals and Practices

Primary Learning Objective(s):

The students will analyze a primary document and be able to explain the intent of the illustrator.


Additional Learning Objective(s):

The students will learn the opposing viewpoints in Alabama concerning Prohibition.


 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

31 to 60 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Technology Resources Needed:



The movement against the consumption of alcohol grew during the early 1900s. Progressive reformers who wanted to ban alcohol for social reasons were joined by Americans who opposed alcohol for religious or moral reasons. In 1917 they persuaded Congress to pass a constitutional amendment making it illegal to make, transport, or sell alcohol in the United States. The Eighteenth Amendment, known as the Prohibition Law, was ratified in 1919.

Prohibition was a major issue in Alabama. The prohibition forces controlled the legislature which passed a bill to institute prohibition, submitting it to the governor, Emmet O'Neal, on his last day in office.

O'Neal ignored it and the legislation was submitted to Governor Charles Henderson after his inauguration in January 1915. Henderson promptly vetoed it, stating that local governments should determine their own rules. The legislature, however, succeeded in passing the bill over his veto, killing his amendment for a popular referendum and establishing prohibition in Alabama under what became known as the "bone dry" law. Consequently, Alabama was a dry state before the federal prohibition amendment was ratified during the Kilby administration (1919-1923). The state remained dry from 1915 to 1933 when the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution, repealing prohibition, was ratified. (Information available at:


The student should know the following:

  • Background information about the Progressive era at the turn of the century

(The Library of Congress has an excellent website with information regarding the Progressive Era.)



Engagement/Motivation Activity:
Display pictures of Women’s Christian Temperance Union leaders and discuss their role in the passage of the Prohibition Law. Remind the students that Prohibition was passed in Alabama ten (10) years before it became a Federal law. Ask the students if they have ever seen a political cartoon, maybe in the newspaper or magazines. Ask if they always understand them. Many people do not understand political cartoons because they do not analyze specific parts of the cartoon; they are looking at the whole cartoon instead of analyzing specific aspects or symbols. The 5-word outline activity is easy to use and remember when analyzing a political cartoon: E- event; S- subject; S- symbols; E- exaggeration; O- opinion of illustrator (ESSEO).

Step 1- Pass out handout with political cartoon. You may need to tell the students what statements are in the bubbles and on the people’s labels (see Overview of lesson). Read the directions to the students and answer questions. Discuss the difference between the Event (Alabama Prohibition) and the Subject (Brewers and Distillers having a great deal of power in Alabama for a long time).

Step 2- Allow them several minutes to individually complete the handout.

Step 3- After most students have finished the handout, allow students to work in pairs to compare answers. Allow them to adjust their answers as needed.

Step 4- Ask for volunteers to share answers as you display the handout on the display camera. Fill out the handout as you discuss the symbols and exaggerations.

Step 5- There are no wrong answers if students can justify their responses. You may have to explain some items or point some out if they go unnoticed.

Step 6- When the first four headings are complete, discuss how the symbols and exaggerations could give the reader an idea of the illustrator’s opinion about the event and subject.

Step 7- Ask students to write a sentence or two about the illustrator’s opinion. Do you think the illustrator agrees or disagrees with the event and/or subject? Why?

Step 8- Allow the students to share their responses.

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Assessment Strategies

  • Monitor student involvement during class discussions. Encourage students that are usually reserved to offer answers for symbols and exaggerations while more outgoing students may volunteer to give their meanings.
  • Handout may be graded for completion if the activity is completed as a whole group project. Once this outline has been modeled, students can utilize the 5 steps on any political cartoon without assistance.


  • Give the students another political cartoon from the time period to analyze on their own using the 5- word outline.



  • Introduce the students to the 5- word outline with a very simple political cartoon, then allow students to work with a partner to complete the Prohibition activity.


Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

Presentation of Material Environment
Time Demands Materials
Attention Using Groups and Peers
Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior
Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.