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JANM Supports Decision by Dr. Seuss Publisher to End Publication of Six Children’s Books

black and white cartoon of Asian people with slanted eyes lined up. An Asian man with slanted eyes is handing out TNT to each person. The sign on the building reads, "Honorable 5th Column" and the title of the cartoon reads, "Waiting For the Signal From Home"
The Honorable Fifth Column, by Dr. Seuss

LOS ANGELES – 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.