MLK and Manson

Read the following stimulus text, guiding question and the student's response. Apply the P1 assessment criteria and discuss the marks that you would award the script before reading the examiner's marks and comments. How different were your marks and comments from the examiner's marks and comments? What improvements could be made to this student's response, in order to achieve better results?

From the American Civil Liberties Union, 2000



Guiding question: How does Text 1 use visual structures to make readers more aware of racial inequality? Note that the ‘man on the left’ is civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King and ‘the man on the right’ is a convicted serial murderer, Charles Manson.

Text 1 is an advertisement or poster from an awareness campaign by the American Civil Liberties Union. It borrows visual structures from a wanted poster, such as font, colour and layout, to make its readers more aware of the problems of racial profiling in America. 

The layout of this advertisement is essential in constructing meaning and making its audience aware of the problem of racial profiling. The “man on the left” is Dr. Martin Luther King. Even though he is a good man, who has fought peacefully for civil rights, he is “75 times more likely to be stopped by the police while driving” than the white, serial killer, Charles Manson, on the right, only because King is black. The reader senses that this is not fair. The two black and white headshots, the weathered edges of the poster and the nails, make the poster look like something from a Wild West scene, such as a ‘wanted’ poster. To suggest that Martin Luther King is a criminal is a false accusation, and this is what shocks the readers. In effect the layout makes readers think more about the injustice of the police stopping black and Hispanic people without reason. 

Secondly, the poster uses the same fonts and font sizes as a wanted poster, which makes readers intrigued by its message. The heading, which includes a statistic, captures the reader’s attention in the same way that a sensational heading of a wanted poster would. It uses a serif font that is similar to those of the Wild West days, which makes the reader think that the men in the pictures are criminals who are wanted ‘dead or alive’. The black lines above and below the heading add gravitas to its meaning and reinforce the ‘wanted poster’ analogy. The very small font under the photographs suggests that the copy of this advertisement will be detailed. The problem of racial profiling in the context of Florida is explained here in detail: “Police stop people based on their skin color, rather than for the way they are driving.” It is shocking to learn that 80% of people pulled over are black or Hispanic, even though they constitute only 5% of all drivers. There is a call to action, in this text with the fine print, which recommends that readers send a fax to their Member of Congress. This call to action reminds readers of their responsibility as citizens in a democracy to stand up to the injustices of racial profiling. The fonts and fonts sizes are effective in capturing readers' attention, making them aware of racial profiling and encouraging them to make a difference. 

The use of colour contributes further to the text’s purpose of making readers think about racism as a problem. The various shades of brown and the curled up corners make the poster appear as if it has been weathered and bleached by the sun. It suggests that the criminals in the poster have been at large for a long time. In effect it suggests that racial profiling has remained an unsolved problem in America for a very long time. The black and white headshots imitate those of a wanted poster as well, as these posters are cheaply made for mass production. This suggests that racial profiling is a widespread problem and crime. Ironically the text uses a text type commonly created by the police in order to be critical of the police. The colours of this wanted poster trigger a response from the reader that makes them think about justice and their rights. 

All in all Text 1 borrows the visual structures of a wanted poster in an effort to make readers more aware of the problems of racial profiling. By alluding to Martin Luther King and Charles Manson, readers question why black people should be falsely accused of crimes. The use of fonts, color and lay out are used effectively by the ACLU to spread awareness about racial profiling and remind them of their rights as American citizens.

Criterion A: Knowledge, understanding and interpretation – 4 out of 5

The student’s interpretation of this poster is based on inferences from the stimulus text. It is stated quite clearly that the posters makes readers “think more about the injustice of the police stopping black and Hispanic people without reason.” These kinds of sentences articulate the purpose of the text clearly. Multiple references to the stimulus text support the analysis’ main claims. Quotations are integrated into the student’s argument.


Criterion B: Analysis and evaluation – 5 out of 5

The student is very perceptive in analysing the visual features of the text, such as the “weathered edges,” “nails” and “headshots”. The effects of these features are also articulated clearly and concisely, as they “add gravitas” and “make readers more aware of the problems of racial profiling in America.” Even the relationship between the small font and the detailed explanation is established effectively.


Criterion C: Coherence, focus and organisation - 5 out of 5

The analysis is organised coherently and effectively. Although it is rather short in extent, it is very focused and structured. Body paragraphs are organised around stylistic three features, “layout,” “fonts” and “colour,” which are connected to the text’s call to action and spreading of awareness.


Criterion D: Language - 5 out of 5

Sentence structures are varied, vocabulary is appropriate and the register is academic. Words such as “analogy,” “allusion” and “mass production” are very accurate in capturing the essence of the stimulus texts and how it uses language to construct meaning.

Last modified: Wednesday, 29 January 2020, 8:19 AM