Tell Scholastic: STOP Promoting Racist, "Happy Slave" Book to Children!

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We are sending a message to Scholastic, Inc. and the Children's Book Council: Though it is largely agreed that the slavery the US was built on is a dark, shameful part of our history, in the 21st century, Scholastic, Inc. has published a book that features a slave narrative about how proud and happy 'Hercules' is to make a fine birthday cake for George Washington. 'A Birthday Cake for George Washington' is a harmful story for young children. It subtly reinforces messages of black people as less-than to children, by associating positive feelings with stories of slavery. It adds to the endless supply of stories that describe black people as second class, which is emotionally damaging to our children. This historical fiction sugarcoats the inhumanity of slavery, and the book is marketed toward young children, and educators who have the power to spread it's message to impressionable young minds. This is unacceptable. There are better stories to tell about the contributions of black people to the history of the U.S. To ignore those stories in favor of this one is culturally insensitive, intellectually obtuse, and ignorant of the needs of children who are a captive audience for Scholastic's literature.   It is not enough to show black faces in literature; we must tell black stories that center us as human, as complex, and as the center of our own stories (See Chimamanda Adichie's TED Talk on The Danger of the Single Story for more on this). Stories that sugarcoat slavery and imagine slave owners as benevolent do injustice to our children's intelligence and to the truth of our history. There is no excuse for this in the year 2016. Scholastic is a trusted company, with a lot of influence. Many will not question or second guess the content they publish, and educators will share this bad literature with their students in good faith. Teachers will tell this subtly racist story to their students who trust them to create a safe learning environment. We have learned that it is time to get past the narrative of black people as one-dimensional singing, dancing, athletic characters. Now it is time to apply that lesson to the happy slave. Scholastic must do the right thing, and fix this mistake. And if they can't tell better stories about us, then step aside. Photo Credit: "SlaveDanceand Music" by attributed to John Rose - Licensed under Public Domain via Commons -

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