Liberals Cancel Dr. Seuss, a Liberal who Championed Civil Rights
By Movieguide® Staff
The Dr. Seuss Foundation recently announced that they would no longer publish six of the late author’s classic children’s books due to “hurtful and wrong” portrayals of particular people groups.
On one side of the aisle, people agreed that some of Dr. Seuss’ books, like “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran a Zoo,” should be canceled due to politically incorrect caricatures.
On the other hand, the decision received backlash from conservatives who condemned the Dr. Seuss Foundation for buying into “cancel culture” and fail to judge the author by his character and the entire body of work.
However, both sides should consider Theodor Seuss Geisel’s life as an adamant civil rights activist and supporter of liberal Democrats. Seuss wrote over 60 books, which have sold 700 million copies worldwide, that often contained political commentary.
In 2019, British TV presenter Fiona MacDonald wrote a piece for BBC titled “The Surprisingly Radical Politics of Dr. Seuss.” The article outlined the author’s engagement in politics behind his clever rhymes marketed for children.
“Critics of rising American nationalism have shared Seuss’s cartoons. The messages in his stories help explain the enduring power of Dr. Seuss as much as his humor and poetry,” MacDonald wrote.
Although many remember Seuss’s ability to write humorous cartoons for children, he started as an artist writing political cartoons during World War II.
From 1941-43, Seuss was a political cartoonist for the decidedly left-of-center New York newspaper PM. Along with drawing devastating caricatures of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, he continued to poke fun at aviator Charles Lindbergh and the America First Committee dedicated to keeping America out of the European War.
He particularly hit hard at what he considered Lindbergh and America First’s contempt for the American Jewish community.
Dr. Seuss actively backed Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his bid for a fourth term. And, outside Black-run publications such as The Chicago Defender and the New York Amsterdam News, he may easily have been the lone cartoonist in the U.S. to illuminate and condemn segregation in the armed forces and war industry. Shortly after FDR issued an executive order in 1941 banning racial discrimination in the defense industries, a Dr. Seuss cartoon showed Uncle Sam glaring seriously at a defense plant —underscoring how long Black labor had been denied its rights.
Once Seuss took up the mantle as one of the great children’s book authors, he did not leave his fervent civil rights activism behind.
Seuss himself didn’t necessarily see a huge disconnect between what he was doing during the war and what he did afterwards. ‘Children’s literature as I write it and as I see it is satire to a great extent – satirizing the mores and the habits of the world,’ he is quoted in Cott’s book. ‘There’s Yertle the Turtle, which was modelled on the rise of Hitler; and then there’s The Sneetches, which was inspired by my opposition to anti-Semitism. These books come from the part of my soul that started out to be a teacher.’
He revealed, when discussing The Butter Battle Book in a 1984 interview for USA Today: ‘I don’t think my book is going to change society. But I’m naïve enough to think that society will be changed by examination of ideas through books and the press, and that information can prove to be greater than the dissemination of stupidity.’
However, the tendency to throw out the good with the bad is in the very nature of “cancel-culture.”
Suess was considered liberal, an activist, and even radical for his time but is deemed racist and offensive by today’s political left.
The Palm Beach Post reported: “Theodor Seuss Geisel, who wrote under the pen name Dr. Seuss, was an ardent liberal who supported FDR and passionately spoke out against fascism. His work includes books that embrace environmentalism (“The Lorax”) and racial equality (“The Sneetches”). To conclude that Seuss was a closet racist is preposterous.”
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