Exploring Dr. Seuss' pre-famous art: MCC's 2024 Humanities Teacher of the Year delves into the World War II-era works

Before the world loved Dr. Seuss' characters Horton, Cindy Lou Who, Thing One or Sam-I-Am, Theodore Seuss Giesel was penning drawings for a New York magazine during World War II. 

Those works will be the focus of a public lecture by Meridian Community College's 2024 Humanities Teacher of the Year, Jade Parkes, who serves as a history instructor at MCC. 

The Mississippi Humanities Council sponsors the award and recognizes the contribution of humanities faculty at each of the state's colleges and universities.   

As the recipient of the humanities accolade, Parkes will present to the public his lecture, "Before Green Eggs, Grinches, or Cats in Hats: An Examination of the World War II-Era Works of Dr. Seuss," on Friday, Feb. 16, beginning at 10 a.m. in the McCain Theater in the Ivy-Scaggs Hall on the MCC campus. A reception will follow the program. The event is open to the campus and community. 

Parkes explained his presentation will examine the early life and works of Dr. Seuss, mainly focusing on his works for the New York magazine, PM, from 1941-43. "Several themes will be addressed, including Dr. Seuss' positions on isolationism, segregation within the U.S. military and workforce, and anti-Semitism," he said. 

While in college, Parkes was introduced to political cartoons. "They are whimsical and entertaining. You know Dr. Seuss when you see it and these cartoons are very Suessian," Parkes said. "The editorial cartoons of Dr. Seuss offer us a glimpse into the past – or at least a glimpse into the beliefs of Dr. Seuss." 

Parkes added, "I hope listeners will take away that there are some lessons to learn from these cartoons, just as there are lessons to learn from his much more famous children's books." 

Teaching history is a passion for Parkes, who admits he's always wanted to teach. "I can't see myself doing anything else," he said. And for his 21-plus years at the College, Parkes has plied his teaching trade and counts himself as fortunate. "I finished graduate school in December 2002 and was hired at MCC the next month. I've been here ever since," Parkes said. 

Dr. Chad Graham, MCC dean of University Transfer education, echoed Parkes’ love of history. “And that passion translates to the classroom. His students note his knowledge, insight, and ability to engage with the material as particular strengths,” he said. 

Parkes holds an associate of arts degree from East Central Community College and bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Mississippi. A native of Decatur, Parkes and his wife Stacy have been married for almost 20 years and have two children, Noah, 7, and Hope, 4. 

To learn more, visit meridiancc.edu.