The Political Past of Adult Coloring Books

Today, bestselling “adult” coloring books boast scenes of aquatic life, gardens and flowers, mandalas and cityscapes. But in the 1960s coloring books were a bit more satirical, more political cartoon than leisure activity:

Not only did coloring books show adults a childishly simple view of a corrupt world, they also showed how a child could be corrupted in the process of learning. When the child is instructed to color the executive gray, she sees the absurdity of conformism, but ultimately learns to take part in it by following the instructions. For adults, the conceit of a return to childhood offered the chance to reject the system and embrace entirely new principles; this questioning of the norms of America society would also stoke the emerging civil rights, anti-war, and women’s liberation movements.

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