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Paul Williams - The Pogo Riots

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posted on 29.06.2020 by Paul Williams

This paper contextualises one of the lesser-known civil disturbances in US history, namely the Pogo Riots of 1952. That year Walt Kelly’s syndicated character Pogo the Possum ran for US President, a mock campaign intended to increase subscriptions for the Pogo newspaper strip. Kelly travelled around the country delivering soapbox speeches and addressing rallies, usually on university campuses, but the campaign event at Harvard in May 1952 got out of control and a riot erupted, involving up to 5,000 people, 3 injured police officers, and 28 arrests. Building on Kerry D. Soper’s account of the Harvard riot in We Go Pogo: Walt Kelly, Politics, and American Satire (2012), this paper discusses other disturbances and demonstrations relating to the 1952 Pogo campaign, putting them in dialogue with the Pogo newspaper strip and the highly gendered competition within and between New England universities.


In the video, I refer at one point to the "daily Globe" - for the avoidance of doubt, this is the Boston Globe.

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Paul Williams is Associate Professor of Twentieth-Century Literature and Culture at the University of Exeter (UK). In addition to chapters and articles published in journals such as American Quarterly, the Journal of American Studies, Science Fiction Studies, Studies in the Novel, and Textual Practice, he has written three books: Dreaming the Graphic Novel: The Novelization of Comics (Rutgers UP 2020), Paul Gilroy (Routledge 2012), and Race, Ethnicity and Nuclear War (Liverpool UP 2011). He co-edited the collection The Rise of the American Comics Artist: Creators and Contexts (UP Mississippi 2010) with James Lyons.

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