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University at Buffalo Libraries

Digital Collections

Tom Toles Cartoons, 1969-1973

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Throughout the 1970s, college campuses were torn apart by protests. Students sought a voice and demanded to be heard on matters ranging from actions of the university administration, to the Vietnam War. The State University of New York at Buffalo was no different. Student movements were constantly pulsing through college campuses, but UB differed from others, in that students had a very influential ally behind the scenes. Tom Toles emerged as an inspiring, progressive political cartoonist during his years at UB. His cartoons could be seen in almost every issue of the university student-run newspaper, The Spectrum, from 1969 to 1973.

Toles' cartoons acted as a voice for students when their voices were hoarse from protest, with often dark depictions of what youth saw society doing wrong. Cartoons of the university president were intermingled with cartoons of U.S. President Richard Nixon, at whom the students were often angry due to infractions on the Vietnam warfront. Toles' cartoons often accompanied articles written by student journalists, and in his later years focused less on inequality, the war, and protest, and more on environmental issues, nutrition, drug epidemics, and mental health. His cartoons retained his distinct point of view, regardless of the topic. Not all of his work was dark, however. Toles drew a number of cartoons to accompany movie reviews, television show critiques, theater and play reviews, and announcements of local rock concerts.

The political cartoons as drawn by Tom Toles and depicted in this collection show the student body's view of the world in the 1970s and are a great resource for those interested in student life during this time. After graduating from UB, Toles illustrated cartoons for the Buffalo Courier Express, and later for the Buffalo News newspapers. In 1990, Tom Toles won a Pulitzer Prize for his work and today is a cartoonist for The Washington Post.