Following outrage, Scholastic has decided to pull its new picture book about George Washington that sentimentalized the practice of American slavery.

A Birthday Cake for George Washington was released Jan. 5 and had been roundly criticized for its upbeat images and story of Washington’s cook, the slave Hercules and his daughter, Delia. Its withdrawal was announced Sunday.

“While we have great respect for the integrity and scholarship of the author, illustrator and editor, we believe that, without more historical background on the evils of slavery than this book for younger children can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn,” the children’s publisher said in a statement released to the AP.

The book, which shows Hercules and Delia baking a cake for Washington, has received more than 100 one-star reviews on Amazon.com. As of Sunday evening, only 12 reviews were positive. The book also set off discussions on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere on social media.

The AP reports:

While notes in A Birthday Cake for George Washington from author Ramin Ganeshram and illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton had pointed out the historical context of the 18th century story and that Hercules eventually escaped, some critics faulted Ganeshram and Brantley-Newton for leaving out those details from the main narrative.

“Oh, how George Washington loves his cake!” reads the publisher’s description of the story. “And, oh, how he depends on Hercules, his head chef, to make it for him. Hercules, a slave, takes great pride in baking the president’s cake. But this year there is one problem — they are out of sugar.”

The trade publication School Library Journal had called it “highly problematic” and recommended against its purchase. Another trade journal, Kirkus Reviews, had labeled the book “an incomplete, even dishonest treatment of slavery.”

In a Scholastic blog post from last week, Ganeshram wrote that the story was based on historical research and meant to honor the slaves’ skill and resourcefulness.

“How could they smile? How could they be anything but unrelentingly miserable?” Ganeshram wrote. “How could they be proud to bake a cake for George Washington? The answers to those questions are complex because human nature is complex. Bizarrely and yes, disturbingly, there were some enslaved people who had a better quality of life than others and ‘close’ relationships with those who enslaved them. But they were smart enough to use those ‘advantages’ to improve their lives.”

Brantley-Newton, who has described herself as coming from a “blended background — African American, Asian, European, and Jewish,” has illustrated the children’s series Ruby and the Booker Boys among other books. The editor was Andrea Davis Pinkney, who is Black and also an author who in 2013 won a Coretta Scott King prize for African-American children’s literature

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9 thoughts on “Scholastic Pulls Children’s Book On George Washington Depicting Slaves As Happy

  1. specialt757 on said:

    Amber, I’m not sure what’s going on today, but it seems like “they” want us to forget about what really happened. They even gloss over how they stole this country right from under the native’s noses. And once all the people die that are alive today, no one will be around to tell the true stories. They will have snatched all of the history books from shelves or replaced them with this new glorified cum-bi-yah history. I realize some people want us to forget by coming together as one, this is even evident by the mixing of the races and we are falling for it, hook, line and sinker. BAW recently had an article with Taye Diggs (I know you remember) not wanting his son to be identified as just a black man, he wants to make sure he is also recognized as a white man. He drank the kool-aid.

  2. whatever15 on said:

    What idiots. period. All they had to do was go to the Dusable Museum of African-American History and have them give their opinion.

  3. Timekeeper*–This is the main reason why WE need to educate our children of our rich-however, distorted history.

    If our children knew that African-Americans were once Kings & Queens maybe they would have more RESPECT/LOVE for each other and stop with all this negativity and holding their heads down like they are looking for gold on the sidewalks.

    If we know our true history maybe all the black on black crime would cease. Either way-stop believing that s—t called American History that they keep teaching in the dam public schools!!!!!

    If kids still have library cards now a days-then pay a trip to your local libraries and READ!!!

    HOLD OUR HEADS/KEEP OUR HEADS UP!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Timekeeeper on said:

    You are correct Linda. Slowly but surely our history is being sugarcoated. Reminds of the so called love affair between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. Historians claim it was mutual , but I wonder what would have happened if she had said NO!

    • specialt757 on said:

      GM TK, as we all know, saying “no” wasn’t an option and our objections were not heard or tolerated, hence the mixing of the races began. Yes I agree our true history is being slowing erased by this type of sugarcoating. Next thing, our children will be taught, we freely came over on yachts and the first carnival cruise lines all dressed in pretty dresses and suits singing “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, I like to buy the world a coke and keep it company”.

      • Timekeeeper on said:

        OMG, you are on a roll young lady. Ha,h,ah,ah,a,ha.. Came over on yachts, Ha,ha,ha,ha…..

  5. White Amerykah is doing everything it can to white-wash the ugly legacy of SLAVERY in this country!

    Depicting Slaves as “Happy” is just another example of this IGNORANT s–t.

    Someone please tell me why anyone who is/was a Slave would be happy???????????????????????

  6. Honestly on said:

    Depraved cave n!@@ers and their rigid denial of their ungodly act of barbarism visited upon Nubians is nothing new. I guess the jews were happy to be gassed. They should have never been let out of the caves of Europe.

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