Thursday, August 19, 2004

The Forbidden Book

I bought this book, published by T'boli Publishing, at the library event this past weekend. This collection of historic images is at once overwhelming, brutally real and downright crucial reading in these times of empire-building and people's resistance. You can order it by downloading the order form pdf here. I'm guessing you can also find it at East Wind Books in Berkeley if you are in the Bay Area (support independent bookstores!. Ok, had to get that off my chest). This from the book's launch announcement:

THE FORBIDDEN BOOK: The Philippine-American War in Political Cartoons
by Abe Ignacio, Enrique de la Cruz, Jorge Emmanuel, and Helen Toribio
Available August 14, 2004

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 ceased until 1914.  Some readers may find interesting parallels between the Philippine-American War and events of today.

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 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 cartoons are divided into major themes and introduced by essays at the beginning of each chapter:

- Manifest Destiny and the White Man's Burden
- Government by Consent or Conquest
- He's One of the Big Boys Now
- Conquest and Commerce
- Civilizing the Savages
- The Filipino as a Racialized Other
  Experiences of the African American Soldier
  Hayop (Animal)
- Killing "Niggers" and Rabbits
  War Against the Moro People
- Mac and Aggy
- The Aunties are Coming

From the back cover reviews:

"The brutal war waged by the United States against the Filipino people at the turn of the century has been shrouded in darkness for a long time, the truth concealed from generations of Americans. THE FORBIDDEN BOOK brings that shameful episode in our history out in the open, with a wonderful combination of crystal-clear text and extraordinary cartoons. The book deserves wide circulation."
- Howard Zinn
Professor Emeritus, Boston University
Author of A People's History of the United States

"Brimming with insights into the beginnings of American imperial policy overseas, this book reconstructs an era that was to shape and refine U.S. intervention in the modern world. Through political cartoons in an era when the colonizer itself worked to hide the truth from the American people about the forgotten war a century ago, this book restores for the present generation a past marred by misinformation, racism, blind patriotism and outright lies. A thought-provoking education about the miseducation of the American people by arrogant imperial leaders whose successors never seem to learn the lessons of history. A particularly relevant book which makes it essential reading for the present generation of Filipinos and other colonial subjects of the modern PAX AMERICANA."
- Roland G. Simbulan
Professor of Development Studies & Public Management, and
Vice Chancellor, University of the Philippines

"In this extraordinary collection of political cartoons from the period of the Philippine-American War and subsequent colonization, frank visual satire and caricature vibrate with 'forgotten' histories from the turn of the 19th century: they link U.S. imperial conquests in the Pacific to those in the Caribbean, refract American perceptions of Filipinos through its devastating treatments of blacks and native peoples, explicitly admit U.S. ambitions to employ not only war, but education and culture, to surpass the reach and power of the European empires by the end of the 20th century. These 'forbidden' images are windows onto an earlier moment in the history of American empire, a history in which we still live and struggle today."
-Lisa Lowe
University of California, San Diego

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