OSR Journal of Student Research

Article Title

Racism and Popular Culture in World War II, from Dr. Seuss to Walt Disney


Seventy-five years after the United States entered the Second World War, scholars are still fascinated by the phenomena of the united home front. Authors such as John Dower and his classic War without Mercy, study the ways in which racism affected the war, particularly the ways that Europeans and Americans viewed the Japanese and Japanese-Americans. Chang-tai Hung in War and Popular Culture also explores the consequences of blending politics with popular culture in Asia, particularly during the time of the war. Rosie the Riveter, Uncle Sam and other figures rose to the forefront of the war efforts. As the burning desire for war fueled those left behind other figures, less notorious for political agendas, took initiative in wartime propaganda, including Walt Disney and Theodore Geisel (commonly known as Dr. Seuss). The caricatures and animations created by these beloved children’s cultural icons went beyond a pro-war agenda and instead ventured into explicitly racist imagery and narratives. These individuals remain as elements of the canon of children’s popular culture and have shaped the young minds of Americans for decades. This essay will analyze the propaganda efforts made by Walt Disney and Dr. Seuss and their connections to race and war in the 1940’s as well as its aftermath on American culture. This research will explore the caricatures and animations, their connections to yellow journalism being published at the time and the thought processes behind these popular characters and stories. Specifically, it will analyze the anti-Japanese sentiments that invaded children’s programming and education.

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