Taxes, The Tea Party, and those Revolting Rebels A Comics History of the American Revolution  



Dear teacher,
I’ve used Stan Mack’s Taxes, the Tea Party, and Those Revolting Rebels in my 7th grade American history classes since the book’s original incarnation. All my students love it. It’s chock-full of irony, for one thing, and if there is anything that will get an adolescent’s attention and admiration, it’s the righteous underdog snapping its jaws at the pant legs of the people who have the power; it parallels their own perceived plights, after all.

The irony, along with everything else that is serious and factual in the book, underscores two sophisticated principles: First, that people have high moral ideals, are always inclined toward freedom, and will make sacrifices to fight for that in which they believe. Second, that people will often compromise their principles for self-interest, even to the point where they become blind to the needs of their fellow human beings.  

These ideas cut across political lines today, as they did back then. And studying those principles encourages healthy skepticism but prevents cynicism.

Stan Mack knows that history comprises a number of concurrent stories played out by characters from across the spectrum of society.  It’s a rather complicated business to present all of these points of view at once.  So it’s always struck me that one picture here is truly worth a thousand words: Philadelphia has progressed to the point at which “sidewalks” begin to appear, but pigs are still roaming about on them; the student gets the content of the conversation, but also an idea of the material culture of the times.  In the background of one panel, two Southern merchants discuss the threat they feel to their freedom because of new taxes, while in the foreground crosses an enslaved African bearing a heavy load.

And I’ve always loved pages 7 and 8, in which students get a snapshot of the Enlightenment ideas that shaped the minds of intellectuals of the day.  This helped my students understand that the idea of revolution did not spring spontaneously from a population because of the import taxes on a shipment of tea.

I love the book because students with a range of skills can access the ideas and information in it.  

Stan Brimberg of the School for Children, Bank Street College, New York City.  



  Vocabulary: Words and phases, particularly those that deal with history, politics, and the economy, are defined and keyed, in order, to the pages on which they appear. DOC / PDF  
  Template for Written Assignments: This is a suggested format for the questions that come in the next section. You might copy the questions you intend to use and paste them into the Comprehension template. A “Comprehension Activity Sample” DOC / PDF is also provided as an illustration of how that kind of assignment can work for you. DOC / PDF  
  Questions for Understanding and Discussion: Literal comprehension questions (L) and inferential questions (I), are keyed to the pages on which they occur. Use them as a guide to your class discussions or excerpt them and create from them written assignments for preview or review using the “Template for Written Assignments”. Also included in this section are journal topics (J), which extend ideas raised in the book and invite speculation, personal connection, or further research. DOC / PDF
The following activities invite students to participate in making and interpreting comic art. Some students relate more naturally to art and drawing. Even as observers, some students have an easier time understanding concepts when they are represented in pictures. Since we live in a world in which so much of communication is graphic, it’s important for all our students to develop the skill of seeing, and an understanding of the process of expressing ideas visually:
  Cartooning on the Right Side of the Brain: An adaptation of a technique introduced by Betty Edwards in her landmark book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, this activity encourages students to really see what they are drawing in a new way—by drawing upside down! DOC / PDF  
  What’s My Emotion? While Mona Lisa’s smile may be elusive and mysterious, the cartoonist uses a variety of visual elements to make clear what his/her characters are feeling. In this activity, students use facial features provided by Stan Mack to draw faces onto heads (also provided) in ways that create various emotions of their choosing. DOC / PDF  
  How Do Cartoonists Use Art to Make Their Points: In this activity, you will direct students to various panels or pages in the book, and, using the skills they’ve practiced in the preceding activities, they will “read between the pictures” and figure out what the artist is really getting at. DOC / PDF  
  What Else Can We Learn From A Comic Panel? Material Culture: Students are directed to make close observations of the drawings to learn about the material culture of the day. Material culture includes clothing and fashion, architecture, invention and technology, and the like. It gives us a sense of the texture of the times, which is an adjunct to the history and politics. DOC / PDF  
  Words into Actions: Students look at samples of Stan Mack’s creative process, from ideas to final, inked drawings. You decide whether to go further, to have your students illustrate a series of panels to convey part of a story. DOC / PDF