Correction to This Article
A credit was omitted from a photograph with a Sept. 12 Metro article about a University of Virginia senior who was forced to resign from the school newspaper over a controversial cartoon. The photo of cartoonist Grant Woolard was taken by Steve Gong.

Cartoonist Forced Out Over Image of African Famine

By Ian Shapira
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Grant Woolard, a senior at the University of Virginia, says he cannot remember exactly what inspired him to draw a cartoon for the student newspaper about Ethiopia's famine. But the biology major said yesterday that he wanted to raise awareness about a serious issue using what he saw as a bit of humor, as is the wont of any ambitious cartoonist.

Here is what Woolard, who is white, drew for the Sept. 4 comics page of the Cavalier Daily: nine darkened figures with bald, enlarged heads, dressed only in loincloths, fighting each other over a tree branch, pillow, chair, boot and stool. The caption for the melee: "Ethiopian Food Fight."

The cartoon set off a debate on the Charlottesville campus and triggered protests by students and others angry at what they considered racial insensitivity.

Woolard was forced to resign from the paper.

"I was not trying to trivialize famine," the 22-year-old said. "When you have a food fight, you fight with food. This cartoon brings you to the realization that there's a famine . . . and in general, people give very little thought to starving people in other countries. But I will admit that I really lacked the foresight in anticipating the reaction. I should have thought that they were going to think I was portraying Africans as savage and misshapen."

His drawing has also triggered questions about political cartoons and reader reactions to those that deal with issues such as race or religion.

The episode was like other controversies that have cropped up at college papers across the country.

In January, the Daily Princetonian heard allegations of bias when it published an article in a joke issue that parodied an Asian American student who had filed a civil rights complaint against Princeton University after being rejected for admission. The article, in broken English, complained about the university's rejection of "the super smart Asian."

At U-Va., debate continues about whether the paper's managing board of editors -- who approved publication of the cartoon -- should step down as well.

Herb Ladley, editor in chief of the Cavalier Daily, said that some of Woolard's previous cartoons were also controversial. Ladley cited one that depicted the Virgin Mary and indicated that she had a sexually transmitted disease -- a cartoon that was discussed on the Fox TV show "The O'Reilly Factor."

Ladley declined to discuss personnel decisions but said he had approved the cartoon for publication. "This one came in late at night, after 12:30, and my initial reaction was, 'This is offensive.' But we print a lot of offensive things. The instant the public raised a question about it, we realized it was a mistake."

The day after the cartoon was published, campus minority groups, led by a chapter of the NAACP, marched to the Cavalier Daily's newsroom in the basement of the student activity center and demanded that Woolard be fired, said Brandon Kelley, the chapter's president.

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