Scholastic Pulls George Washington Book Off Shelves After Criticism of Slavery
Scholastic is pulling a picture book about George Washington and his slaves off their shelves after receiving heavy criticism regarding the subject matter. A Birthday Cake for George Washington was released January 5 and tells the story of Washington’s servants preparing for his birthday celebration. According to a description on Amazon, it features the real life story of Hercules, a slave who “takes great pride in baking the president’s cake.”
Scholastic released a statement explaining that the book doesn’t meet their standards of how the information is being presented to young children. “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can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn,” Scholastic shared. Before Scholastic pulled the book, they encouraged parents who were concerned to read the comments from the book’s editor, Andrea Davis Pinkney, and author, Ramin Ganeshram. Ganeshram defended the book, focusing on the historical context of this 18th-century story. “He [Hercules] was a man renowned for his skill; a man respected by President Washington, a man who lived with pride and dignity,” Ganeshram shared. “I know these facts from the nearly four years of research I did with the aid of historians, largely, at the National Park Service’s President’s House site in Philadelphia, where my story is set. We know from first-hand accounts that Hercules was famous in his day as a towering culinarian — admired and in-charge, despite his bondage.” The School Library Journal, a trade publication, called the book “highly problematic,” and discouraged parents from purchasing it. Kirkus Reviews, a fellow trade publication, called the book “an incomplete, even dishonest treatment of slavery.” Scholastic said they understand “that no single book will be acceptable to every reader” and have complied a list of several other books and resources that talk about slavery and Black history. Scholastic will accept all returns on the book.