White Man’s Burden
One of the great questions occupying the the U.S. public at the turn of the twentieth century was the fate of the Philippines following the U.S. victory in the Spanish-American War. In 1896 Filipino nationalists had revolted against Spanish rule. Led by Emilio Aguinaldo, the nationalists supported the United States when it declared war against Spain in April 1898. In June, Aguinaldo declared Filipino independence, and in January 1899 he was elected president. However, the United States refused to recognize the new government. Feeling betrayed, Aguinaldo declared war on the United States in February. The ensuing debate regarding the appropriate policy toward the Philippines throughout the nation and the wider world was heated, pitting imperialists against anti-imperialists. Rudyard Kipling, the famous British author and poet, had lived for many years in India as a child while his father was in the British service. His imperialist childhood undoubtedly influenced his opinion of U.S. intervention in the Philippines.
Examine the political cartoon below and read “The White Man’s Burden.” Answer the questions below.
1. Describe what is taking place in the political cartoon. Who is the man wearing the hat and who is he carrying? Where is he carrying the individual? Why is he taking this person to that location?
2. Did Kipling write this poem to encourage or discourage US intervention in the Philippines? Explain.
3. What is the “white man’s burden”? Who are the “new-caught, sullen peoples”?
4. If you were a citizen of a colonized nation, how might you respond to Kipling’s idea of the white man’s burden?