The structural transformation of American society wrought by the Civil War dramatically outpaced the changes in Americans' racial attitudes. In many ways, the promise of emancipation would not be legally realized until the 1960s, and to the current day, of course, the tensions of racial coexistence continue to perplex and frustrate the culture. In this light, it is important to understand the ways in which popular media help to define the social and political relations of subgroups of American society.
Clearly, Civil War-era political cartoons formed just one sphere of popular discourse where representations of race were a central concern. The role of nineteenth-century visual satire in perpetuating both the images and (opportunities) of African Americans should be seen in the context of a multitude of other media: abolitionist tracts, proslavery novels, newspaper editorials, political speeches, minstrel shows, et cetera.