Taking the ‘N Word’ Out of ‘Huckleberry Finn’

By Catherine Gewertz — January 05, 2011 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

People are buzzing about the change in a new edition of a literary classic: Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn substitutes “slave” for the “n word.”

News of the change came from Publisher’s Weekly, which quoted the Twain scholar behind the change as saying it might help keep Huck on more reading lists. The publisher has apparently been deluged with negative e-mail and phone calls, but defends the change for its potential to provoke dialogue about language, learning, and censorship.

It didn’t take long for the topic to start ricocheting around cyberspace, attaining the distinction of becoming a trending topic on Twitter. (You’ve got to check out some of the tweets on this. Trust me.)

In the edusphere, it resonated at Teacher Magazine and the Core Knowledge blog.

And the mainstream press couldn’t resist it, either; it landed on the home page of The New York Times, and was picked up by other major papers, as well. CNN and National Public Radio weighed in. (Last I checked, more than 95 percent of those taking NPR’s online poll were against the substitution.) They’re talking about it in the United Kingdom and Canada, as well.

So come on: Is the change to Huck Finn a good thing, kind of like a market correction for literature? Is it a form of censorship to be resisted at all costs? A useful learning tool (in either case)? Something else I haven’t listed?

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.