Under Pressure, Scholastic Recalls Racist Children’s Book

The Huffington Post has reported on a case of a book causing controversy and subsequently being recalled.  In Alabama Story, the children’s book The Rabbits’ Wedding causes a firestorm of opinions about the nature of the story.  In the case of The Rabbits’ Wedding, the controversy surrounding the supposed pro-integration message of the story, something not intended by its author.  In this case, the story is under criticism about its depiction of the difficult subject of slavery in America.  Those arguing for its recall see the story as portraying the lives the slaves as seemingly happy to serve George Washington, with smiles on their faces as they go about their tasks.

The controversies surrounding The Rabbits’ Wedding  and A Birthday Cake for George Washington are similar in nature (a children’s book causes a large uproar over a sensitive subject) but there are some important differences, mainly their intention.  While it’s arguable that both stories had harmless intentions, The Rabbits’ Wedding was not about race at all, according to Williams, and readers took that message from it, while A Birthday Cake for George Washington intended to tell a historical story about the times when slavery existed, but failed in its sensitivity and presentation of the subject matter.  To portray slaves with smiling faces and to portray two different colored bunnies getting married are significantly different in their motivations, but are interesting to compare in regard to how controversies like this arise and as an example of why discussions on race need to continue even today.

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“A firestorm erupted when Scholastic released a children’s book early this month, A Birthday Cake for George Washington, by Ramin Ganeshram and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, featuring smiling slaves baking a cake for George Washington. The back cover portrayed George Washington and his enslaved chef, Hercules, arm-in-arm, like best buddies. The image convinced many that this was anOnion parody and not an actual children’s book published in 2016. The images of seemingly happy enslaved African-Americans working in the kitchen were underscored with Hercules’s closing words when he serves the cake: “An honor and a privilege, sir… Happy birthday, Mr. President.” The story never offers children a hint as to why it was not a “privilege” nor a smiling affair to be enslaved. Nor do readers learn that the conditions were so dire that Hercules escaped on Washington’s birthday the following year, despite having to leave his children behind.”

Read the full article here.

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