Dr. Seuss Enterprises will no longer publish or license six of the author’s books, including his first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937) and If I Ran the Zoo (1950), because of racist and insensitive imagery.
On Tuesday, the company released a statement on their website explaining their decision to stop publishing these books, citing that they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” In addition to those two books, McElligot’s Pool (1947), Scrambled Eggs Super! (1953), On Beyond Zebra! (1955) and The Cat’s Quizzer (1976) will no longer be published.
“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,” they wrote.
The company, which preserves and protects the legacy of the late author and illustrator, who died in 1991 at the age of 87, also noted in the statement that the decision was made over the past year with a panel of experts, including educators, academics, and specialists in the field, who reviewed the catalog of titles.
The works of Dr. Seuss, born Theodore Seuss Geisel, have long been considered canon for children’s literature thanks to their playful illustrations and tongue-twisting rhymes. In recent years, however, Geisel’s work has been called out for his caricature and stereotype-ridden depictions of racial minorities, particularly Black and Asian people. Geisel has also been critiqued for his work before becoming Dr. Seuss, including drawing WWII cartoons that used racist slurs and imagery, as well as writing and producing a minstrel show in college, where he performed in blackface—a form of entertainment that some children’s literature experts point to as the inspiration for Geisel’s most famous character, the Cat in the Hat.
The announcement was made on Geisel’s birthday, which is also the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day. It’s an event that has historically been linked to Geisel and the Dr. Seuss books, with the NEA often using Seuss books, characters and imagery for the day’s programming and promotions in the past thanks to a longtime partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises. However, in 2018, the NEA did not renew their contract with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, citing a new focus on highlighting diversity, especially when it comes to race and gender identity. In 2019, they rebranded their logo and website to be “independent of any book, publisher, or character.”