9 Racist Children’s Books That’ll Infuriate You

Warning: keep these offensive publications away from the next generation.

Anyone who claims racism is over in 2016 needs to be knocked over the head with this children’s book, A Birthday Cake for George Washington. Published this year, the Ramin Ganeshram children’s book follows a father-daughter duo who happily serve their master President George Washington. Yes, they’re slaves. It’s an egregious whitewashing of history that’s been generating controversy for the past couple weeks, and rightly so. In no way does this have any place on bookshelves today, much less the hands of impressionable children.

But it’s easy to see how infuriating screw-ups like this make it to press. There’s a long history of publishers either turning a blind-eye or being so ignorant they can’t even spot the prejudice in their works. Just check out these examples of more racist children’s books.

  • 1 A Birthday Cake for George Washington by Ramin Ganeshram
    Scholastic Press
    What’s supposed to be a sweet tale about a little girl discovering her passion for cooking is actually, inherently, a whitewashing of history. In the book, Delia and her father Hercules take pride in baking President George Washington a cake. Swept under the rug here is that they’re actually slaves, and each one depicted as such in the book seem to have no problem with that. Well, fortunately the rest of the cognizant world does, as Scholastic Press has rightfully pulled it off the shelves. How can this even be published in 2016?

  • 2 Tintin in the Congo by Herge
    Casterman
    In the second volume of the beloved French children’s series, released in the 1930s, creator Herge had his hero visit the Congo. There, he portrayed its people, illustrated in pitch black colors, as infantile, stupid, and lazy, and therefore in need of a white European to step in and civilize them. In 2007, British civil rights lawyer David Enright came across the book at a Borders and motioned to have it removed. Instead, the chain moved it to the adult section. From there, major bookstores began filing their own motions against the book.

  • 3 The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
    Frederick A. Stokes
    The story itself, originally published in 1911, is sweet enough: an orphaned girl gets sent to live with her awful uncle in a mansion, where she discovers a secret garden with a small sickly boy with magical powers who helps make her life better. Where is the racism? In the fact that they portray black people, here depicted as servants, as the absolute worst. Not only do they come off as brash and sassy, but the orphaned girl even declares that they are “not people.” Just when you’d think this would set her up for a life lesson on human decency, no one ever corrects her.

  • 4 Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
    Charles Scribner's Sons
    Anyone who’s seen the Disney animated film knows how grossly racist the film is against Native Americans. All you need as a reminder is the appalling “What Made the Red Man Red?” musical number. This all originated from the original J.M. Barrie play, which was then turned into the novel Peter and Wendy in 1911. In it, the Native Americans are portrayed as savages, marked by mentions of scalping, communicating in grunts and yells, and speaking in pidgin English. Basically, as less-than-human beings.

  • 5 Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
    Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
    Forget what you’ve seen in the films. In the 1964 original book, the Oompa Loompas don’t come from Loompaland. Rather, they come from Central Africa and are described as nothing short of raucous, dark-skinned pygmies. Thus, when you think about it, Wonka basically enslaved a whole group of people and made them work in his factory.

  • 6 The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
    HarperCollins
    So the entire series is inherently white: all-white protagonists, save for talking animals, in a snowy white landscape, ruled over by a Christ-like lion figure. You could argue that exclusion of other racial groups here is inherently racism. However, it isn’t until the fifth book, The Horse and His Boy (1954), that this becomes in arguable. Here, the titular boy’s evil adoptive father, portrayed as a dark-skinned, bearded, and turban-wearing (much like the Middle Eastern group the Tarkhans), plans to sell him into slavery. His father’s people are also portrayed as ruthless, greedy, and psychopathic. What’s worse, they’re illustrated as praying to a Satanic figure. So, uh, white people = good Christians? Dark-skinned people = devil worshippers?

  • 7 A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins
    Schwartz & Wade
    Why the hell is this book getting critical acclaim? Let’s just break down the facts here: just like A Birthday Cake for George Washington, this is about a little girl who takes pride in a dessert she makes for her master and his family. That’s literally you need to know. And yet, the New York Times had the audacity to name it one of the best illustrated books of 2015.

  • 8 The Story of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
    Frederick A. Stokes
    This is most definitely not the lovable family film version you remember Eddie Murphy starring in. No, this is the racist 1920 original novel. While later versions of the book have been edited to remove offensive language and subplots as time and culture have progressed, the first version depicted an African prince wishing he were white so that he could marry a white princess. Thus, the Doctor, who was his father’s prisoner, grants his wish in exchange for freedom by bleaching his skin. It doesn’t get any more obvious than literal whitewashing.

  • 9 The Strange Tale of Ten Little N***** Boys by Unknown
    M.A. Donohue
    Not much is known of this book, except for the fact that it was published by M.A. Donohue in the early 20th century. However, just one glance at the front cover is all you need to know. In addition to the absolutely disturbing title, the novel was thought to have simply followed the trend of poking “fun” at black people during the time. A few years before the publication of this book, the British blackface song, “Ten Little N******” was also popular.

Tara Aquino is an entertainment writer based out of L.A. She likes people, places, and things.