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A Birthday Cake for George Washington

Source: Vanessa Brantley-Newton / Amazon screenshot


Scholastic Books learned very quickly that a book about honorable, happy “slaves” happy to bake and serve their white massas isn’t an appropriate children’s book and released a statement saying that the propaganda-filled pages have been pulled and full refunds will be given.

Social media was on fire talking about A Birthday Cake For George Washington, which Scholastic describes as follows:

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. But this year there is one problem — they are out of sugar. This story, told in the voice of Delia, Hercules’s young daughter, is based on real events, and underscores the loving exchange between a very determined father and his eager daughter, who are faced with an unspoken, bittersweet reality. No matter how delicious the president’s cake turns out to be, Delia and Papa will not taste the sweetness of freedom.

Here’s the irony, though. Three women of color, including two Black women, were behind this book: editor Andrea Davis-Pinkney, illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton (credited above), and author Ramin Ganeshram.

Still, we hate to think they came to the conclusion that this was the right move alone. There has to be a reason. What Klansman was at the table who okay-ed this? What Donald Trump cousin signed off on this ridiculous piece of sh*t? What kind of Confederate-flag waving, mint-julep sipping imbecile said, “You know what would be good for elementary school children to read? A book about happy slaves!”

In any event, Scholastic released the following statement as mea culpa:

(January 17, 2016) Scholastic is announcing today that we are stopping the distribution of the book entitled A Birthday Cake for George Washington, by Ramin Ganeshram and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, and will accept all returns. 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.

Scholastic has a long history of explaining complex and controversial issues to children at all ages and grade levels. We 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. 

Scholastic provides a wide variety of fiction and informational books and magazines which teachers, parents and children rely on, including many devoted to African American experience, history and culture.  We are also committed to providing books, magazines, and educational materials that portray the experience of all children, including those from diverse communities and backgrounds, and we will continue to expand that commitment through our global publishing channels.

No, nope. Nah.

Slavery was not about diversity; it was about torture and bondage and the oppression of people based on skin-color alone.

We still got questions. And, hopefully, Scholastic has answers. Because this was not a swing and a miss. This book went through an editorial process and not one person had the sense to say, “This might be the dumbest idea I’ve ever seen.”

They learned today, though.

 

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