In a most comical, if not outrageously poor move, a children’s book, A birthday cake for George Washington, published by Scholastic depicts happy and joyful slaves scampering about trying to bake a cake for the President’s birthday. This poor idea of a book has sparked outrage amongst parents and educators alike.
The book which was written by Ramin Ganeshram and Vanessa Brantly-Newton conveys the story of Hercules, the President’s head chef who attempts to bake President Washington a cake for his birthday celebration. It conveys the story from the point of view of the head chef’s daughter as an absence of sugar in the kitchen instigates a wild scramble to avoid spoiling Washington’s birthday.
The front flap of the book which claims that the book is based upon true events reads; “This story, told in the voice of Delia, Hercules’s young daughter, is based on real events and underscores the loving exchange between a very determined father and his eager daughter, who are faced with an unspoken, bittersweet reality. No matter how delicious the President’s cake turns out to be, Delia and Papa don’t have the seethes of freedom”. It’s hard to believe that they felt the smiling book cover bellies the fact in that last statement.
Its hard also to imagine the amount of ignorance that could have prompted both the writing and the subsequent publishing of this book alike. It is one thing to make agreed upon jokes about slavery and slaves; the likes of which I haven’t heard; but giving an account, a recreation of events in fact where the period is depicted as a happy and prideful one is unbelievable.
Brantley-Newton in her Artist’s Note states “While slavery in America was a vast injustice, my research indicates that Hercules and 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.” I guess there is some comfort in knowing that this book was obviously not written for Africans but it does escape me as to what message is meant to be impressed on the people it was written for.
Thankfully, the contents of the book went viral on Facebook with parents and educationists alike butchering the revisionist history, the book also received a 45% 1 star rating on Amazon. We hope the writers are cured of their ignorance and begin to see the period for what it represented to humanity in general, a sad, disgraceful, shameful debasement of human values.