Black women wrote controversial children’s book whitewashing slavery

1-19-2016 3-52-23 PM

By Scotty Reid – Scholastic is the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books and a leader in print and digital educational materials for pre-K to grade 12. The American-based publisher was taken to task by critics for publishing a book depicting enslaved victims of George Washington as happy and in a celebratory mood as they baked a cake for the despicable first President of the USA. However, the authors, two black women, Ramin Ganeshram and Vanessa Brantly-Newton have largely escaped scrutiny for their decision to put together such a horrendous book for children.

Scholastic has pulled the children’s book “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” which was released on January 5, 2016 after it was criticized for being “highly problematic”. The book contains illustrations featuring the smiling faces of Washington’s enslaved head cook Hercules and one of his enslaved daughters, Delia who is the narrator of the story.

There are many problems with the book but most problematic is the fact it was written by two Black women born in the United States. The book, which was written for children, whether it is intended for white or non-white children is not clear but it is a fictional account based on real historical characters who suffered largely in silence in the shadow of the vile aristocratic Washington. The book is akin to educational publisher McGraw-Hill in one of its recent text books referred to victims of the Trans-Atlantic human trafficking business as “immigrants”.

The book displays the main characters as happy, smiling Black people apparently content in their condition of slavery imposed by one of the greatest racist hypocrites this country has ever known. Washington was only surpassed in his wickedness by another so-called founding father in Thomas Jefferson who repeatedly raped the enslaved Black half-sister of his wife whom he purchased from her father. Writers and historians have also whitewashed and romanticized the enslaver/enslaved relationship between Sally Hemings and the adulterous Thomas Jefferson.

First, Hercules was a culinary master and not a baker and never baked cakes according to research. Therefore, it is highly doubtful the enslaved man would bake a birthday cake for George Washington let alone be happy about the task. It was more likely Hercules cursed the day Washington was born and probably spat in the daily food he prepared for his captor and his guests. It was his son Richmond that worked with Hercules in the Presidents House kitchen and not his daughter Delia.

The plot of the story centers around Hercules trying to scrape together ingredients for a birthday cake for the first President and trying to determine if he can bake a cake without sugar. It is only after eight pages in does the writer reveal that Hercules is in fact a “slave” and the story does nothing to convey the full meaning of the word. The story mentions that Hercules was well dressed, liked entertainment and wandered the streets of Philadelphia at times.

The story through the illustrations in the book continue to show a smiling happy Hercules which many people find disturbing. Vanessa Brantley-Newton in her “Artist’s Note” that comes after the story states, “While slavery in America was a vast injustice, my research indicates that Hercules and the other servants in George Washington’s kitchen took great pride in their ability to cook for a man of such stature. That is why I have depicted them as happy people. There is joy in what they have created through their intelligence and culinary talent.”

This is absurd and what research did she do that did not depend on reading what was written about the enslaved by the enslavers. Hercules certainly did not leave behind his own written memoirs as an enslaved person. Besides, many of enslaved persons would smile and grin in their enslavers faces for fear of upsetting these people who surely punished the enslaved with whippings, beatings and hard labor like Hercules ended up doing before his escape from Washington’s Mt. Vernon plantation in Virginia.

The real story of Hercules is that he was one of hundreds of enslaved person’s held against their will by the vile and disgusting Washingtons. Hercules was one of the nine enslaved persons held by George Washington who were illegally rotated back and forth from Philadelphia to Mt. Vernon to keep them from residing in the city for six months, which according to the laws of Pennsylvania would then grant them the right to free themselves from their enslaver. When it was discovered that Hercules and his son Richmond were possibly plotting to free themselves, Hercules was sent back to Mt. Vernon where he was forced to do hard labor as punishment. It was from Mt. Vernon that Hercules would eventually escape his enslaver George Washington.

One expects American publishing companies to whitewash American history and it is sickening that they still are the number one sources of the fictional tale that slavery was abolished in the USA after the civil war by the great betrayer Abraham Lincoln. The Senate passed the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution on April 8, 1864, and it passed the House on January 31, 1865, mere months before Lincoln’s assassination. A reading of the 13th Amendment, which is rarely if ever published by these companies, reveals that slavery was not outright abolished and was reserved as punishment for crime and it was the legal document for not only the South but the entire country to practice a new form of slavery through a racist criminal justice system that persists to this day.

What one should not expect from Black people in the USA is for them to participate in that whitewashing and brainwashing of children about the history of the United States and its many despicable historical figures.

What is the supposed moral story of the “A Birthday Cake for George Washington”? According to Vanessa Brantly-Newton, you should be proud to be enslaved by such prominent people as Washington and even if you are only being paid a slave’s wage, to take pride in your work. You would think it was written for the prison labor force in the USA, the largest new slave population in the world and not school aged children.

It was the right decision by Scholastic to pull this book from publication and the books that did make it out to the public should be burned by those who would use this book to misinform their children about the true character of George Washington and the silly notion that people enjoyed working for their enslavers.

Shame on Ramin Ganeshram and Vanessa Brantly-Newton.

Listen to a podcast from 8 years ago with Michael Coard of Avenging The Ancestors Coalition, about efforts to honor the enslaved victims held captive in Philadelphia by George Washington.


12-4-2013 3-05-12 PM
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16 thoughts on “Black women wrote controversial children’s book whitewashing slavery

  1. Douglas Byrd eagles you have literally said nothing. I hope your comments made you feel better. Your words are as hollow as your intelligence.

    • She has a black parent so she is Black. She can’t pass as white. Besides, it is about conscious acts and both of these women decided to write a book whitewashing slavery.

      • That makes no sense. So she’s black because one parent is black? So that would mean if she’s black and she had a child with a white man, that child would also be black. And if that child is black because this biracial woman is black because her parent is black, that child’s child must also be black. You see where I’m going, right? By this “logic” every person on the planet every would be lumped into the black group and thus, the black identity rendered completely meaningless. Another thing, just because she “can’t pass as white” it doesn’t mean she is black. It simply means she’s both non white and non black. We should identify her simply and only as a biracial woman of Afrikan descent (this doesn’t make her “black”).

        • You right, she has a Black parent but it is really about how she identifies. But let me say thins, Being Black is more than a god damn skin color as you see all these black ass people working for white supremacist. So really, what the hell does skin color or ones level of melanation got to do with anything when it ain’t stop the one you acknowledge as black is whitewashing slavery.

        • It has to do with biological survival. Being black has nothing to do with whether or not someone deals with white racism. Whites discriminate and oppress all other relatively powerless people. It doesn’t matter whether they’re Asian, Afrikan, “Indian”, mixed or whatever. I don’t see how a biracial person dealing with racism has anything to do with being black. Another thing, biracial aren’t really viewed as black. The majority of whites view them as a buffer “race” in-between black and white.

          • I misread your last reply. You asked me what her being non Black has to do with the other white-washing slavery (correct me if I’m wrong again). It has nothing to do with it but I was making an observation. I found it interesting your referred to them both as black women when it was only one. I’m not making excuses for either one.

          • Understood, you were making an observation and sharing it, no foul there. Being the writer of that headline I directly answer that question. I recently started operating from the standpoint of adopting Neely Fuller Jrs definition of the types of people being oppressed under a system referred to as racism or white supremacy, the only three classifications are white supremacists, white people and non-white people.

            However, I am classified as black by that system, both my parents were classified as black and I grew up in black neighborhoods in Detroit neighborhood as a kid, The community I was part of listened to Black music of all kinds and referred to themselves as Black. My favorite organization I most closely identify with is the Black Panther Party that was started the year I was born. So Obviously I identify as part of the Black Community or I would not have named this platform Black Talk Radio Network.

            Now if you want to climb into my family tree you will find non-black people, One Scot-Irish, an indigenous member of a Cherokee and their children were classified as mulatto, a classification also applied to the offspring of a black person and whatever non-white classification.

            Mr. Neely Fuller simplifies all this for me by using three classifications.

            Question, am I non-black according to your code and do you have the power to enforce your racial classification code over me if I am non-black. Now I’m hearing from a person on our YouTube channel that a black woman edited the book. So how many black women took part as proxy racist tools of white supremacists.

        • One drop to be the color black! We didn’t make that rule they did. When the cops pull her over, she’s followed in a department store. All they are gonna see is a black woman/woman of color! In their eyes it’s all the same!!!

          • So what if they made the rule. Why do you guys keep bring up how whites view biracials (and us)? It doesn’t matter. Guess what, all non whites deal with white “supremacy” not just Blacks, so her dealing with “racism” means nothing as far her race is concern. She simply isn’t a black woman any way you slice it. To call her one is to devalue actual black women and our identity as a people. You sound like someone who’s very self-loathing who doesn’t care about racial continuity and integrity.

          • no I sound like some one who has had a different life experience than you that has formed my differing viewpoint. Why should I adhere to your racial code? That is your code but not one you can impose on anyone else. You can name call and say we suffering from this or that, doesn’t make your opinion any more valid.

        • Thank you for your input. I found out since this article that another Black woman was the editor for the book. It is just so disappointing.

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