Book About George Washington’s “Happy Slaves” Has Now Been Pulled Off Shelves Everywhere

By  | January 19, 2016

BY: NATURALLY TRIECE

A recent children’s picture book about George Washington and his slaves has been pulled from book shelves everywhere by Scholastic.

“A Birthday Cake for George Washington” tells the story of Washington’s slave named Hercules, a cook and his daughter.

The story has been criticized for having images of smiling slaves and has been described as “highly problematic” among parents and teachers all over the country.

Scholastic recently released a statement saying that without more historical context, the book “may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves.”

This particular book, which tells the story of Hercules and Delia creating a birthday cake together, was released on January 5th and was met with a barrage of one-star reviews via Amazon. Readers described the book as “disgustingly inaccurate.” One reader wrote, “I can’t believe people are celebrating a children’s story that depicts happy, joyful slaves.”

Scholastic’s description of the story read, “Everyone is buzzing about the president’s birthday! Especially George Washington’s servants, who scurry around the kitchen preparing to make this the best celebration ever.”

“Oh, how George Washington loves his cake! 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.”

Ramin Ganeshram and Vanessa Brantley-Newton, the author and illustrator of the book, wrote about the historical context in notes, which were supposed to accompany the story, but they were criticized for not including them in the main narrative.

Trade Journal Kirkus said that children could be left with a “sorely incomplete understanding of both the protagonists’ lives and slavery itself” if adults did not read them the additional material.

Scholastic said in their statement,”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can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn.”

They added that they “do not believe this title meets the standards of appropriate presentation of information to younger children, despite the positive intentions and beliefs of the author, editor, and illustrator.”

 

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