The Unbelievably Racist World of Classic Children’s Literature
After a new children’s book was accused of glossing over the realities of slavery, the Internet exploded with stories about beloved books that contain racist language.
When I read about the controversy swirling around the children’s book A Birthday Cake for George Washington, I gave a little shudder and thought, there but for the vagaries of fortune go I.
Years ago I collaborated on a children’s book called Jump! The Adventures of Brer Rabbit. The book was a retelling of several African American folk tales first collected by Joel Chandler Harris in the late 19th century and published in a series of books that all featured Uncle Remus, a fictional former slave, as the storyteller.
My co-author, Van Dyke Parks, and I agreed early in the process to do three things. First, get rid of the dialect used to tell the stories in the Chandler books. Second, get rid of Uncle Remus. Third, stay far, far away from the Tar Baby story.