Originally Posted by Jim K
You might be right, but my reading was the opposite; I think the cartoonist was showing the black man as evil, almost an animal, with the stalwart white man defending his home, tradition, and Southern womanhood. It would help to know where the cartoon came from. If a Northern paper or book, you may be right; if a Southern source, my view would be more likely.
In any case, that was a horrible time for the country and led to an even worse period.
Jim--you most certainly are correct. The illustration accompanied a triumphant report in the Norfolk Herald of Virginia. These were certainly not "objective" reports; the illustrator, like the antebellum periodical journalists in the South, were certainly in the business of producing representations we might call racist.
I guess another way to state my original inquiry might have been, is this indeed a generic gun or is the illustrator trying to create "realistic" portrait right down to the details. The fact that the illustrator isn't interested in the latter suggests to me, as it has to Jim, that the symbolism of the piece is its most important function.
Thank you all very much for these thoughtful contributions!