Dr. Seuss Enterprises will no longer publish six of the author’s books because of their racist and insensitive imagery, the company announced Tuesday.
The company said it worked with a group of experts, including educators, to review the catalog of the iconic children’s book writer and decided last year to stop selling the six titles because they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” The move was announced on what would have been the late author’s 117th birthday.
The six books are: “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.”
While books by Dr. Seuss, who was born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield in 1904, have sold hundreds of millions of copies and been beloved by children and families for their memorable rhyme schemes, they have also been criticized in recent years for their offensive depictions of people of color. And before he became a children’s book author, Geisel drew political cartoons that contained racial slurs and contained racist, stereotypical images.
A February 2019 study from the University of California, San Diego and the Conscious Kid Library examined 50 Dr. Seuss books and found that “the presence of anti-Blackness, Orientalism, and White supremacy span across Seuss’ entire literary collection and career.”
Many of the books assessed in the study are among those that the company said it will stop publishing. But some of the most well-known titles, like “The Cat in the Hat” and “Horton Hears a Who!” were also mentioned in the 2019 study for including racist and offensive imagery, and were not on Tuesday’s list.
The study found that of the 2,240 human characters in the 50 Dr. Seuss books, only 45, or 2 percent, are characters of color.
“White supremacy is seen through the centering of Whiteness and White characters, who comprise 98% (2,195 characters) of all characters” in the books, the authors of the study wrote.
The study also notes that every character of color is male, and they are “only presented in subservient, exotified, or dehumanized roles.”
Dr. Seuss’ books also contain characters that are animals or not human, and those characters “transmit Orientalist, anti-Black, and White supremacist messaging through allegories and symbolism” in some of Dr. Seuss’ most well-known books, the study found.
Here’s a look at five of the books that will no longer be published that the study cited.
‘And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street’
Dr. Seuss’ first book under the pen name was published in 1937. The book follows a boy named Marco as he walks home from school and sees a horse pulling a wagon on Mulberry Street. Recalling his father’s advice to “see what you can see,” the boy imagines more elaborate scenes and characters on his walk home. But when he finally arrives, he decides not to tell his father what he imagined and says he only saw the horse and wagon.
It is cited by the study for its anti-Asian imagery and stereotypical depictions of a Chinese man whom Dr. Seuss refers to by an offensive name for Asian people. The study notes that while the book was revised in 1978 to refer to the man as a “Chinese man,” the image of the character retained its racist depictions.
In 2017, The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield put up a mural featuring the Chinese character that they later decided to take down after three authors said they would boycott a children’s book festival at the museum because the image showed a “jarring racial stereotype of a Chinese man, who is depicted with chopsticks, a pointed hat, and slanted slit eyes.”
The book also contains characters wearing turbans that “serve a dominated and/or dehumanized role in relation to dominant White males,” the study notes.
‘If I Ran the Zoo’
The book tells the story of a boy named Gerald McGrew, who is unimpressed with the animals he sees at the zoo during a visit, and lists the imaginary, fantastical creatures he would keep at the zoo if he was in charge.
The UCSD study describes the book, published in 1950, as “one of the most egregious in terms of depicting people of color through racist caricatures.”
The book illustrates themes of dominance and exotification, Orientalism, and white supremacy, the study notes.
Dehumanization and white supremacy are apparent throughout the book, and exemplified when a white male character describes putting “a person of color wearing a turban on display in a zoo,” the study says.
‘On Beyond Zebra!’
In the book, published in 1955, the narrator imagines a different alphabet that comes after the letter “Z” and thinks of new creatures that represent each letter.
The book illustrates racist themes in its depictions of Asian people and characters wearing turbans and riding exotic animals, and it contains images that reinforce stereotypes and exotification, according to the study.
‘Scrambled Eggs Super!’
The book follows Peter T. Hooper, who travels to collect eggs from exotic birds in his quest to make the best scrambled eggs.
The book, published in 1953, contains images of characters wearing turbans that are serving a “dominated and/or dehumanized” role in relation to white male characters, the study notes.
The examples of subservience include a turban-wearing character “fetching” an egg or playing an instrument for a white male character.
‘The Cat’s Quizzer’
The book poses a range of questions to readers, like: “Do fish sleep with one eye open?” and “Are snails faster than turtles?”
The book published in 1976, contains stereotypes and offensive depictions of Asian people.
The UCSD study notes the book contains a Japanese character who is referred to by his nationality, is shown standing on what appears to be Mount Fuji, and is portrayed using other racist themes.
Amanda Kaufman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.