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Scholastic Pulls Book After Widespread Criticism for Its Depiction of ‘Happy Slaves’

Scholastic Pulls Book After Widespread Criticism for Its Depiction of ‘Happy Slaves’

Scholastic has made the decision to pull a children’s book based on George Washington’s birthday it had just released Jan. 5 after facing criticism for its inaccurate depiction of slaves.

"Scholastic's description of the story had 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,’” said BBC.com.

The ’servants,’ Hercules and Delia, are slaves who are depicted joyful and happy as they work under President Washington’s command, which critics have described as “highly problematic,” according to the article.

On Jan. 17, Scholastic announced a statement announcing it would be pulling the book.

“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 Victoria 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 thank this book for younger children can provide, the book may give a false expression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn.”

The author and editor, however, spoke out against the criticism, with Ganeshram defending her work and research.

"How could they be proud to bake a cake for George Washington? The answers to those questions are complex because human nature is complex,” Ganeshram said in a blog post.

She argued that she had researched the subject for four years and had carefully written the book to reflect that.

"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.”

Editor Andrea Davis Pinkney said in her own blog post that the book “does not slavery’s horror for granted.”

This was not the first and will not be the last, however, of books for children that are criticized for misrepresenting the history of the slave trade. See: The McGraw-Hill textbook controversy in Texas.

Read the full story.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

1/19/2016

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