A Chicago Chronicle cartoon in January 1900 showed President McKinley preventing Uncle Sam from reading the 'Forbidden Book' about the 'true history of the war in the Philippines.' Today, most Americans know nothing about a 15-year war with the Philippines that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos.
On February 4, 1899, the United States went to war based on a false claim that Filipinos began attacking American soldiers in Manila. The first shots were actually fired by an American soldier as Filipinos crossed a bridge, and historians would later discover a 'prearranged plan' by the U.S. military to precipitate a war as soon as an incident was provoked. Misled by false reports, the Senate passed (by one vote) a treaty to annex the Philippines. President McKinley would later justify the war by claiming that God had counseled him to take the Philippines in order to civilize and Christianize the Filipinos. What was really behind the annexation was the need for overseas markets and raw materials for American industry.
Opposition to the war was led by the Anti-Imperialist League whose members included many prominent Americans including presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, suffragist Jane Addams, labor leader Samuel Gompers, African American activist Ida Wells Barnett, and writer Mark Twain. The 'anti-imperialists' were branded as traitors by 'pro-expansionists' and Filipinos were depicted as savages in order to de-legitimize their resistance to American occupation. American opposition to the war grew as more and more American soldiers died and as revelations of military atrocities, torture of prisoners, killing of Filipino children, and concentration camps surfaced in media reports, military trials, and a senate hearing. President Roosevelt prematurely declared the war over on July 4, 1902 but the last major battle was fought in 1913 and hostilities did not cease until 1914. Some readers may find interesting parallels between the Philippine-American War and events of today.
The Introduction discusses America's economic transformation after the Civil War, the conditions facing the 'other' America (immigrant labor, native Americans, Blacks, and Chinese), the Philippine Revolution for independence from Spain, Cuba and the Spanish American War, the decision to annex the Philippines, the start of the war, and the opposition to the war led by the Anti-Imperialist League. The Epilogue describes how the Philippine American War came to be forgotten and the aftermath of the U.S. conquest of the Philippines.
The book features eighty-eight colored cartoons taken from the pages of popular magazines, along with 133 black-and-white political cartoons reprinted from newspapers including San Francisco Evening Post, New York World, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, New Orleans Times-Democrat, Minnesota Journal, St. Louis Republic, Detroit News, Denver Evening Post, Los Angeles Times, etc. as well as Life, Harper's and Collier's Weekly. Twenty-seven historical photographs are added to compare with the cartoons' stereotypical depictions.
The cartoons are divided into major themes and introduced by essays at the beginning of each chapter:
Colored: Black n' White - The Philippine-American War in American Popular Media 1896-1907 is an eye-opening exhibition of more than 70 magazine and newspaper cartoons - part of a larger archival collection - which convey the political, racial and gender sensibilities surrounding the Philippine-American War. The accompanying text for each image provide a Filipino viewpoint of the War and the concept of 'Manifest Destiny' (a philosophy that sought to justify America's expansionist appetite for global power), the cost of war, and the portrayal of Filipinos and anti-war advocates in the American media during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
'People of color have long been political subjects portrayed to look inferior through imagery,' said Estella Manila, the Filipino American Center Librarian. 'This exhibition, although at times very bold, forces us to look at history through images of propaganda used during the Philippine-American War.'
Colored: Black n' White has been on view around the globe from Santa Barbara to Manila. The contents of the exhibition was assembled from personal collections by Abe Ignacio, Helen Toribio, a college instructor, and Jorge Emmanuel, an environmental scientist. Gathering the images displayed in the exhibition became a passionate journey for Ignacio, the son of Filipino immigrants. Researching the Philippine-American War sparked his interest in learning more about the political depictions and underlying racism. 'It was exciting, like a treasure hunt,' said Ignacio of his shopping spree for old magazine illustrations and cartoons, which he found in antique shops, bookstores and online.
His wife, Helen Toribio was raised in Hawaii. 'Anyone who grew up here, grew up with the mythology of America the beautiful, the great democracy, and there is very little exposure to the dark side,' she said. 'There is a lot that is hidden about American history.'
'The Forbidden Book' compiled and written by Abe Ignacio, Enrique de la Cruz, Jorge Emmanuel, and Helen Toribio will be launched at the exhibition and copies will be on sale. (To order a copy by post, see page 4 for details.) The centrepiece of the cover is a detail taken from the June 1899 issue of 'Judge' magazine. The man in the cartoon titled 'The Filipinos First Bath' is U.S. President William McKinley. 'Oh, you dirty boy,' he says standing in the waters of Civilisation about to scrub the Filipino with the brush of Education. The McKinley administration aggressively promoted the idea that Filipinos were children incapable of governing themselves, thus justifying annexation of the Philippines by the U.S.A. This is a typical example of what Americans saw in pictures usually accompanied by a racist language that labelled Filipinos as 'gugus', 'niggers', and 'monkey' and reinforced by events such as the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, where Filipinos and native peoples from other countries were displayed as uncivilised and savage.
Pro-imperialist media depicted the United States as the inheritor of the 'white man's burden.' As one cartoonist expressed it: 'There was once an old 'Yank' who lived in a shoe / covered all over with red, white, and blue / His family is large and still growing bigger / The result of good work in snapping the trigger.' There were many political cartoons showing Filipinos being spanked with the shoe of the 'U.S. Army' or beaten with the rod of 'benevolent assimilation.'
A few late 19th century journalists and political cartoonists did however expose the massacres, tortures, pillaging, and wholesale destruction of villages; but forgetfulness was officially sanctioned. And so, a war that required the deployment of 126,000 U.S. troops and took the lives of some 250,000 people at the very least, to possibly as many as 1 million, mostly Filipinos, was relegated in American textbooks to being merely an 'insurgency'; a war that the U.S. officially declared to have ended in 1902, but which actually lasted 15 years, continuing well beyond the first decade of the 20th century.