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Children’s Literature Expert Breaks Down Hidden Racism in Dr. Seuss’ Books

By Victor Trammell

A renowned scholar who is an expert on children’s books has spoken out about what he thinks are subtle elements of racism, which exist in the works of a popular children’s book author.

The Atlantic Magazine recently published a report that featured an interview with Philip Nel, a Distinguished Professor of English at Kansas State University. Nel is also a children’s literature connoisseur who has worked on writing projects for a number of Dr. Seuss books, as well for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter literature franchise.

However, in an exclusive interview with Isabel Fattal, an editorial fellow for the Atlantic Magazine, Nel talked about the racist subtleties of “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss. Nel has also written a newly published book titled “Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature, and the Need for Diverse Books.”

“Nel argues that, yes, the Cat in the Hat was black—or, more precisely, that Seuss’s depiction of the character was based on racial stereotypes and inspired by traditions of blackface minstrel entertainment—and that dozens more children’s books of decades past are brimming with insidious, racist themes,” Fattal wrote.

In his interview with the Atlantic, Nel also exposed more racist subtleties in other “innocent” American literary entertainment sources for children. “One obvious example would be the Oompa Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, who are these orange people who are enslaved happily by Mr. Wonka,” Nel said in his interview.

“The book presents slavery as happy and fun, and the kind of thing that others would enjoy, and I’m not sure that everyone thinks of the book in those terms. In the original version, the Oompa Loompas are not white people from Loompaland—they are in fact black pygmies from Africa,” he continued.

To read Nel’s complete interview with Atlantic Magazine’s Isabel Fattal, visit the link for the research source for this article, which is given below.

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