Six Dr. Seuss Books Pulled from Publication for Racial Imagery

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A Dr. Seuss cartoon from the 1940s depicting Japanese Americans as saboteurs.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises issued the following statement on March 2:

“Today, on Dr. Seuss’s birthday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises celebrates reading and also our mission of supporting all children and families with messages of hope, inspiration, inclusion, and friendship.

“We are committed to action. To that end, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, working with a panel of experts, including educators, reviewed our catalog of titles and made the decision last year to cease publication and licensing of the following titles: ‘And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,’ ‘If I Ran the Zoo,’ ‘McElligot’s Pool,’ ‘On Beyond Zebra!,’ ‘Scrambled Eggs Super!’ and ‘The Cat’s Quizzer.’ These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.

A character from Dr. Seuss’ “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.”

“Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families.”

The decision does not affect Dr. Seuss’ other children’s books, such as “The Cat in the Hat,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

In Los Angeles, the Japanese American National Museum issued a statement of support: “The Japanese American National Museum (JANM) welcomes the decision by the publisher of Dr. Seuss’ books to end publication of six of the author’s children’s titles that depict harmful caricatures of people of color, including Asian Americans and Blacks.

“One example is the stereotypical image in ‘And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,’ of an Asian man with slanted lines as eyes, wearing a conical hat, and carrying a bowl with chopsticks.”

“The mainstreaming of racism and prejudice is deeply embedded in our culture. It is high time that Dr. Seuss’ work is examined,” said Ann Burroughs, president and CEO of JANM. “The klieg light of history could not have provided more compelling evidence.”

JANM notes that there is a darker historical context to Theodor Seuss Geisel’s work. Well-documented studies of his career as an editorial cartoonist reveal racist cartoons that depict Black people as crude, barefooted and wearing grass skirts, and Asians as a dangerous race not to be trusted.

One of Geisel’s most inflammatory cartoons is “The Honorable Fifth Column.” It features Japanese American men lined up along the West Coast of the U.S. being handed boxes of TNT, presumably for treasonous violence. After the Pearl Harbor attack, the drawing reinforced the dangerous war hysteria and racial prejudice of the era that led to the unconstitutional incarceration of Japanese Americans.

JANM has long documented these divisive images in our nation’s past. Through education and outreach, the museum highlights these painful chapters in order to ensure that this history is never forgotten, or repeated.

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