Following backlash over the release of a children’s book depicting George Washington’s slaves as happy workers, publishing juggernaut Scholastic has halted distribution of the picture book that has been accused of sanitizing America’s past.
The announcement comes after Scholastic attempted to defend “A Birthday Cake For George Washington,” the children’s book written by Ramin Ganeshram. On Sunday, the publishing company pulled back, releasing a statement in response to criticism about the inaccurate depiction of slavery.
The book tells the story of a slave named Hercules, a cook in the home of Washington, and his daughter Delia. The upbeat tale shows the two happily baking a cake for the former president — a recipe that’s also provided for readers at the end of the story.
From the New York Times:
“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,” it said in a statement.
While defending the team that produced the book, the publisher said that without more historical background, “the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn.”
Initially, Andrea Davis Pinkney, the executive editor of Scholastic Trade Publishing, defended the book by saying Washington “admired” Hercules. She also insisted Hercules lived “a life of near-freedom.”
That pride in their position in the president’s kitchen is why the book’s illustrator, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, chose to depict the slaves “as happy people,” Ms. Pinkney wrote.
“They were not happy about being enslaved, but there was joy in what they created through their intelligence and culinary talent,” she said, adding that some historians consider Hercules to have been “the first celebrity chef in America.”
SOURCE: NYT | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty