Censorship Shrink Ray Takes Racial Epithet Out Of Huck Finn

A publisher is releasing a new version of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, excising the “n” word from the text. The move comes as a reaction to censorship-minded public schools, which have methodically banished the book from English curriculum.

Publishers Weekly reports NewSouth eliminated 219 uses of the word in the book.

“This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colorblind,” said the Twain scholar who came up with the idea. “Race matters in these books. It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.”

If you’ve read the book, would the loss of the “n” word alter your appreciation of Twain’s opus? Do you think the benefits of reaching a larger audience with “cleaned up” text offset the damage in altering a masterpiece?

Upcoming NewSouth ‘Huck Finn’ Eliminates the ‘N’ Word [Publishers Weekly via San Francisco Chronicle]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Ah yes, this story. They’re planning to replace all instances of the ‘n’ word with ‘slave’. Also, the ‘in’ word (“Injun”) is being removed altogether.

    I ask this: How is ‘slave’ any less offensive than the word it replaced?

    • ReaperRob says:

      Look at the name of the publisher.

    • Gandalf the Grey says:

      Also, why do they feel free to say the ‘injun’ word but won’t say the ‘n word’ Are they saying that one is more offensive than the other? After all, they were willing to print one but not the other.

      I say we go picket their offices for racial equality.

    • uber_mensch says:

      Perhaps we should just take our cue from the NAACP as to what word to use.

      National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

      • Shadowfax says:

        Perhaps we should leave classic literature alone instead of sanitizing it lest it offend our delicate sensibilities.

        I would think the NAACP would be up in arms about this personally. Twain used the “n” word for a very specific reason, and it wasn’t because he was racist – it was to point out how stupid and ignorant racism was. To remove the word removes that message and, actually, props up the racists who want to pretend that we never had slaves or segregation, never mistreated black people, and that there are no repercussions felt by that community today as a result.

    • Master Medic: Now with more Haldol says:

      Perception. If my son who is 9 were to read it he would have (by his upbringing) no concept as to the offensiveness that N*** conveys. It’s not a word we use or have him exposed to. However, he comprehends the severity and oppression of a human that slavery is.

      • Farleyboy007 says:

        i’m trying to remember if i could have read huck finn at 9… Shouldn’t you explain to your kid about the offensiveness of that word? What if he hears it blaring over some guys stereo and repeats it? I’d rather that conversation came up b/c of him reading Huck Finn than listening to the new Eminem album or something.

        • Master Medic: Now with more Haldol says:

          That’s the point, he could read it, but doesnt have the capacity to fully comprehend it. A “youth version” may allow him to experience the story, without having to try and grasp the underlying sociological aspect.

          Of course momma says rap/hip hop is the devil. So problem solved.

        • Griking says:

          If you have to explain to someone that they should be offended by something then perhaps it’s not as offensive as you think.

          • NatalieErin says:

            There’s a difference between telling someone they should be offended by a word and explaining that some people might be offended by the word.

      • Griking says:

        If your son wouldn’t be offended then why bother making an unnecessary change?

      • Erika'sPowerMinute says:

        Hey, it’s your kid, but 9 is plenty old enough to for you to explain what that word is, why it is so vile and why he must never use it. I found that photos and videos of civil rights demonstrations helped my kids understand the gravity of what I was teaching them.

        • Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

          The problem is that leaving the “n” word in the text would promote questions and difficult conversations about how language can be used to injure others. It would also serve to demonstrate the difference between the time in which Huckleberry Finn was written and the modern age.

          In other words, leaving the book as written would have encouraged actual teaching and learning. And we would never want that.

  2. Joewithay says:

    All I have to say is F**K THAT

    • The cake is a lie! says:

      Message from NewSouth:

      Your choice of words has been revised. Your message will now read as follows:

      All I have to say to that is Power To the Publishers!

      end of line

    • Daemon Xar says:

      Eh, it’s crap, but it’s hardly the only time that Twain has been messed with in order to appeal to a larger audience. The version of “The Mysterious Stranger” that everyone had to read in high school (or at least I did) was actually written by Alfred Thomas Paine (Twain’s nephew), based on three incomplete stories written by Twain (“Schoolhouse Hill”, “The Chronicle of Young Satan,” and “No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger”). The original three stories are significantly different and darker in both tone and message, and are significantly better than Paine’s product (IMO, obviously).

      I can’t help but think that Twain would find this whole thing pretty funny, albeit in a dark way.

  3. SagarikaLumos says:

    One thing about the way they are doing this: they are subbing “slave” for the N-word. At the time Huck Finn is set, the word “slave” would be a factually incorrect description. Add to it that I’ve always felt that Twain’s use of the word was meant to show the audience far more about Finn himself than about Jim, and I think it’s likely to lose its effectiveness. Leave the book alone, and raise the age that the book would be assigned to if you’re afraid of abusing the word.

    Hint: they’ve heard it before, though.

    • Larraque eats babies says:

      Porch Monkey 4 Life!

    • Megalomania says:

      The book was written in the 1880s, but it’s set during the antebellum period, so ‘slave’ would be a factually accurate term. That does not change the fact that the author didn’t put little asterixes throughout the book towards the footnote “In the event this becomes an issue for people with no perspective, change this word”.

      When the word is being yelled on albums that sell by the million in the US, it’s hard to listen to this crap with a straight face (that crap too). Huck Finn was at least written when that was part of the everyday vernacular and comes down quite harshly on the people who used it as an epithet.

  4. bruce9432 says:

    A way around is to use the word gingers

  5. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I didn’t realize that Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer were still standard reading in High School. I thought that and Catcher in the Rye were on their way out way back when I was in school (a couple decades ago) — at the very least, it was a contentious issue with the school board back then.

    • ReaperRob says:

      I’ve had to read it for middle school, high school and college literature courses. That’s all been within the last 15 years.

    • MB17 says:

      God school boards are retarded.

    • Shadowfax says:

      It’s amazing how few people realize that Huck Finn is told from the perspective of a kid who avoided school like the plague and was raised by a drunk. In short, an ignorant uneducated back-woods pre-teen prone to doing stupid crap like calling black people “the en word.”

      It’s very obvious that Twain was pointing out “This is what ignorant back-woods uneducated hick pre-teen sons-of-drunks do because they don’t know any better. Maybe you should consider being better than that.”

      • chiieddy says:

        It would have been better if Huck grew at the end of the book.

        [sorta spoiler alert]

        The reason this is my least favorite Mark Twain book is because the character goes in this great life journey and supposedly is there to learn all sorts of life lessons but at the very end, where does he end up? Back where he started without any growth at all. It made the whole reading an exercise in frustration. I know what Twain was trying to say, but I hate the way it ended.

        • Shadowfax says:

          I think Twain was commenting that in that culture at that time, it was nearly impossible to “grow” in the way you’re speaking of. Even the town notables, from Aunt Polly to the Widow Douglas to Judge Thatcher, were all idiots. They believed stupid crap like floating bread with mercury in it would home in on a dead body in the river and mark its location, and the Judge allowed Huck’s dad to remain free despite obvious evidence of neglect and abuse, not to mention a lengthy previous criminal record.

          Twain wasn’t trying to tell us that taking a great journey in which you learn new things is a life-changing adventure – he was indicting all of southern society for being largely unable to change no matter how many chances it got.

    • thomwithanh says:

      Huck Finn was the ONLY piece of American classic literature we read in high school. Since I went to an IBO (International Baccalaureate) school, if I remember correctly 90% of our reading list were plays, and something like half of them were Latin American.

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Ignoring the past dooms you to repeat it. Part of the purpose of having youth read this book is to highlight our history of slavery and oppressions and teach us both that it is both wrong and that we are moving past it as a culture. When you do not teach your children the mistakes of your society’s past, they will believe there were none. And a culture that believes it has done no wrong will believe it can do no wrong. And that will inevitably lead to wrongdoing.

    • UnicornMaster says:

      Agreed. Some people want to pretend it didn’t happen and then turn around and treat people in the same manners.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I agree. With each generation, we lose a little bit more of context for how things “used to be.” With each generation, we lose more witnesses of the segregation and racial discrimination of the 1930s to 1970s and the fight for civil rights. It’s important to preserve these documents to show future generations (as they have previously) that once upon a time, we did horrible things, and we learned from our mistakes.

      • NatalieErin says:

        “segregation and racial discrimination of the 1930s to 1970s”

        You sort of demonstrated your own point – our nation’s history of (post slavery) segregation and discrimination predates the 30s by some time. Jim Crow laws were put in place almost immediately after the Reconstruction Period ended and racist violence began climbing in the 1870s. The number of lynchings peaked before the turn of the last century.

        As time as passed and we become many generations removed from something, it’s easy to forget about it. Particularly given that media depictions of American racism tend to ignore the long period between the Civil War and the 1950s.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          I think you misunderstood. I know about Reconstruction and Jim Crow immediately after…I just didn’t mention post-Reconstruction because it wasn’t relevant to my point. We no longer have any living witnesses from that time period. Those people have died long ago, and the only thing we have is whatever words they left behind. Hence the “with each generation, we lose more witnesses..”

          When I pointed out the 1930s to 1970s, I meant that this is the last batch before and immediately after the Civil Rights Act that is surviving. Most of the people who were teens or adults in the 1930s have died. We are currently losing the generations whose lives were most directly affected by Jim Crow.

    • DrLumen says:

      Well said.

      I’m not sure if the word was as offensive in those days (1850’s?) as it is now. There are a lot of negative connotations to the word now that probably didn’t exist then. Like the swastika appearing in various cultures to signify luck and prosperity before the Nazi’s got ahold of it. I’m not saying that the word was likely a word of endearment but perhaps more of a general word for the race rather than meant as an insult. In that perspective it should be just another word.

      I like Mark Twain and it would be a shame for a bunch of revisionist to edit what he wrote strictly to make it more PC.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        People put so much hate behind it, and the culture and society back then treated black people so poorly as to consider them non-human. Certain words, like “colored,” became more acceptable to use but are still considered extremely offensive because it harkens to a time in which the connotation with the word was “you’re inferior because of your skin color.”

    • The cake is a lie! says:

      I suppose they will also be taking all of the segregation lessons out of the history books too based on the logic they use to censor this book. They should take the whole civil rights movement out entirely and leave out the slavery part of our early history just so we don’t offend some young group of kids who grow up listening to music where black people call each other nigger all the time and it is used as a term of affection in some cases.

      Honestly, if they are going to censor everything offensive out of our country’s history then there wouldn’t be anything left to teach. History is made because someone is offended. I say leave our literature alone. Nobody says you have to read it. If it is offensive, just don’t read it. You don’t see them censoring smutty romance novels because our tender teens might get the wrong idea, do you? Oh, yeah… that’s right. They don’t require you read those. Maybe that is the lesson they should take with American classics like Huckleberry Finn too.

      • ARP says:

        See the Texas School Board. They’ve removed references to Thomas Jefferson. They’ve reduced the number of pages dedicated to Kennedy and the Civil Rights Movement and replaced it with extensive information on the Reagan Revolution.

        • The cake is a lie! says:

          Proof that everything really is bigger in texas. Including the deal they make out of things that really don’t matter. I think we are evolved enough and there are few enough people left who were involved in it to begin with, that we can start looking at it a little more clinically and objectively. The emotion is becoming more removed from the events of the 60s that our senior citizens were so passionate about and the children of the era had to witness, so we should be able to discuss it a little more openly in our schools you would think. Thank god for charter schools where they actually teach history the way it happened…

    • Ariannah says:

      Don’t confuse the matter with facts, reason, and logic.

  7. MeowMaximus says:

    This is ludicrous. Berke Breathed coined a phrase years ago in a “Bloom County” that accurately describes this sort of reaction – “Offensisensitivity”. Instead of censoring the text, teachers should use the opportunity to discuss why the word has become offensive, and how the use of language has changed.

    • LadyTL says:

      Standardized testing obsessions don’t let most teachers in high school and below do that since they have to teach to the tests.

    • rpm773 says:

      The publisher can rewrite the book any way it wants. Let the free market decide what to do with it.

      But my money is on the school corporations buying the censored version. It will prevent them having to deal with time-wasting and costly hassles with offended parents.

      We’ve made this politically correct bed for ourselves over the last several decades…now it’s time to lie in it.

    • jesusofcool says:

      You make a great point. The historian in me finds this pretty much outrageous – there’s a reason why that word is in the book. Forget historical accuracy, etc, there’s a lesson about the past; a teaching opportunity missed when it’s removed.
      We can’t over sensitize our children. They need to be aware of historical context and of how the past affects the future.

    • ChoralScholar says:


  8. quail says:

    It’s altering history as much as its altering a book. I say, keep it out of the high schools that can’t stand the n*word, and let the kids read the book as it should be when they find it online or in a college course. You do no one a service when you alter a book to make it politically correct. (Thought I’d reread TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD a few years back but made the mistake of picking it up at WalMart. The damn thing had been edited/watered down and had left out great chunks of meaness that were essential to the book. Glad that I’d had exposure to the book before picking up that piece of cow droppings.)

    I wonder if this publisher would have released a Richard Pryor album without the swearing “because it would have reached a wider audience”.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      but it’d be a very short album.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I’m thinking I need to buy a used copy of Huckleberry Finn, just to preserve it. By the way, has anyone read the Mark Twain autobiography to see whether he has any opinions regarding his own use of the word in his book?

      • Gort42 says:

        I’m about 300 pages in. I’ve noticed that he only uses the word in quotes, to the extent of putting the word alone in quote marks. Otherwise, he uses “negro” and “colored”, neither of which were considered offensive at the time.

  9. Michaela says:

    I understand why they want to replace it, but I also remember the discussion we had in the class because the word was in the book. The book has plenty of adult themes a child wouldn’t understand, so I would prefer the word remain, but for more school systems push for the book to only be read in high school.

  10. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    This is freakin’ Mark Twain, it is what it is. Publish it as it was written. Leaving a word out will not change the world. (Note: Why is it okay to use “that” word in Rap and Hip-Hop “Music”?)

    And in other PC racial censorship news, You’ll notice that “Song of the South” has never appeared on DVD from Disney’s vaults.

    • Emaewest says:

      It’s available in Europe.

      • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

        and torrents… not that I approve of that, just sayin’, wink, wink…

    • Larraque eats babies says:

      Answer: It’s not. Because it’s just a word.

      In Harry Potter they call him ‘He who must not be named’ and Harry still calls him Voldemort (much to the distaste of everyone around him) because when you fear a name/label, you only empower it more.

      The moral is – replacing Nigger in Tom Sawyer only further elevates the word in everyone’s mind as a word that must not be said, without encouraging discussion as to why one should not say that word. It’s intellectually offensive, and a disservice to the youths of this nation.

      • leprechaunshawn says:

        I believe it was Louis CK that said, “Don’t say ‘the n-word’ because it make me say nigger in my head”.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      and the big screen re-release of fantasia removed the african zebra centaurs who were walking behind dionysus and fanning him with palm leaves.

  11. physics2010 says:

    Thats just rePENISulous.

  12. Spook Man says:

    Nothing but censorship..

    Should they rewrite history books too because of slavery in the US.. Or how the holocaust.. Both are offensive (to some), so we have to change it to make others happy..

    The guy says he’s a twain scholar and wants to change it? Uh, no, you’re not a scholar if you believe that it needs to be changed.. You should fight to keep it original text and then teach others about how the us thought of others in the past..

    • LadyTL says:

      Actually they do rewrite school history books to tone down much of those events. Alot of the time though they just skip them in class. Except slavery, that they will spend 4 months on “slavery is bad.”

      • Raanne says:

        Or, if you live in Virginia, you can read about how lots of freed slaves went to fight for the confederacy because they believed that was more in their interest. That, and how the US entered WW1 in 1916.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          Have to defend Virginia here. The state made a bonehead decision to use these textbooks (only in three counties) but it was because the author of the books was some random person, not a historian or academic who would actually know what he or she was doing.

          The state did NOT seek textbooks that revised or glossed over history in any way. There’s a difference between history books that contain some inaccuracies because people just got the facts wrong, and inaccuracies that come about because people are attempting to spin or hide an element of history. The case in Virginia is the former, not the latter.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      Well, depending on what state you are in, they already have done that. It’s stupid. I read Huck Finn in middle school. Calling Jim slave is just wrong. Yes, he was a slave at one point but he escaped. Examining the book in its context and time period are important to understanding that Twain, though progressive in racial view for the time and area, still couldn’t entirely erase certain prejudices. By ignoring the racism of the past or painting over it, we end up repeating it as a society.

  13. daemonaquila says:

    Disgusting. We can’t be afraid of words, especially in their historical context. I’m really offended that an article about censorship self-censors by saying “n-word” rather than just coming out and saying “nigger.” For the love of pete, people have to be exposed to the good and the bad in their past, without brushing it under the rug. The way to avoid repeating painful and horrific episodes of history is to understand them, come to grips with what we did, and then decide never to let it happen again.

  14. HannahK says:

    I read the book in high school. I’m not sure if my school would have purchased the censored version if they had the funds, but our copies were ancient. My teacher didn’t beat around the bush, we actively discussed the use of the word and its significance, just like we discussed the choices that other authors made in other books. That’s pretty much an English teacher’s job, right?

  15. MamaBug says:

    The point of using “nigger” in the book (and subsequently Jim’s reaction to the word) is supposed to open up a discussion in high schools about the connotations of the word, and its inappropriate uses, how it is offensive, etc.

    On a side note, I have a daughter that watches Dora (god help me). I’ve noticed that they’ve covered every color in the rainbow except black (negro). It makes me wonder.

    • teke367 says:

      Is black in the rainbow?

      I agree though, I think this is all just a little silly. Then again, I guess the book is public domain, and the edited version is probably the one thing this publisher can use to sell a copy version the dozens of other publishers selling copies.

      But they should ask themselves, does anybody ever think, “The new version of ET was so much better without guns or the word terrorist”

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        No, Mama Bug is using “rainbow” in the metaphorical sense, not the literal one. She’s saying Dora has talked about pretty much every color in the world except for black.

    • Lisse24 says:

      I understand this fear. I’m a middle school geography teacher and have been accused of racism while teaching about Nigeria.

  16. Reading_Comprehension says:

    Kids can find that word all they want on internet comment boards, at least it has context here

  17. nbs2 says:

    Isn’t this more of a Censorship Growth Ray?

    I think we’d all be for a Censorship Shrink Ray. Just sayin….

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      Well, the word they’re replacing IS one letter longer than the one with which they’re replacing it, so the book should be 219 characters shorter now, not even considering the five-letter redactions of “Injun”.

  18. Remmy75 says:

    I am sorry, offensive or not it is a reflection of where our society was at when Twain wrote the book. If you start to clean up offensive words, then you start to lose the true meaning of the work. Twain was making a point, he wasn’t trying to offend anybody.

    I am sorry if you are offended, its suppose to offend you. Everything about race and color in this country has something offensive about it. Till you learn about how bad it was, you can never know how much better i can be.

  19. jbandsma says:

    How do you know how far you’ve come (and how far you still have to go) if you don’t know where you’ve been?

    I come from a small, rural community that is STILL so whitebread that there are only 2 black families anywhere near. Without Huck and Tom, I’d never have learned about the word and why it takes away the humanity of the person it is used against when a white person uses it.

    And, Cheap Sniveler, I so want Song of the South to be released.

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      you can find a copy in Europe on DVD – where they aren’t so oversensitive. You can get it on a torrent…

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I wouldn’t be so quick to call it segregation. You say you’re from a small, rural community…well how many people in general are going to move to a small, rural community? I bet most of the people there have grown up there, or their ancestors started there. That’s how it is with a lot of rural towns. Maybe it’s not segregation or prejudice, maybe it’s the fact that it’s more likely that the small town doesn’t have the jobs, resources, etc. that would attract more people (regardless of race).

  20. g.park says:

    I’m just glad that tomorrow’s literature students won’t have to think about and discuss the historical context of the n-word.

    Discussing how a word has been used in the past, and how it is used today, and the social and cultural implications of who the word is used by and who it describes- those sorts of discussions have no place in language classes.

  21. Sparkstalker says:

    Those of you opposed to this are all wrong…my God, won’t you think of the children? Reading something like this could lead to them discussing and thinking, and we can’t have that…

  22. Admiral_John says:

    I am adamantly opposed to this kind of censorship…. the book as it stands not only tells the story of Huck Finn but it gives you an insight to what life was like back then, including racial values. Taking “The N Word” and “Injun” out of the book just lowers the value of the story the book is telling.

  23. Greely says:

    “Slave Jim” doesn’t have nearly as much of a ring to it.

  24. Blueskylaw says:

    This is a good idea because we really don’t need critical thinking or discussion skills in schools. Besides, if we remove the N word from all literature and maybe even the dictionary, we can make it seem like it never even existed.

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      Can we please remove it from hip-hop “culture” too?

    • daemonaquila says:

      That’s the thing that frightens me – erasing words and ideas no matter how repugnant. Many years ago when I was still in college, I did a field research project in Wisconsin where multicultural education had just been mandated in the midst of anti-native violence and hate speech. One of the things some schools were doing was taking potentially “offensive” books off the library shelves. When I was talking to some of the school administrators, one actually asked me if I had any suggestion for what books should be removed. *facepalm*

  25. rorschachex says:

    My issue with this, and I assume this is the same for many people, is not that the inclusion of the n-word is essential to the book, but that Mark Twain, the author, put it there for a reason. It adds to the color (no pun intended) of the setting and reminds us what that time was like. I read Huck Finn in school, an urban public school for that matter, and there were no real problems with it.

  26. backbroken says:

    And to think, all this time we’ve been living in a world full of people irreparably damaged by having to read these books in their uncensored form.

    Maybe this is why we don’t have flying cars in 2011.

  27. JonBoy470 says:

    Changing the text, in my mind, violates the artistic, and in this case, historical integrity of the original book. For better or worse, african americans were referred to by the “N” word in the 19th century. Having kids read Huck Finn would give them opportunity to discuss the issue.

  28. CWG85338 says:

    Has anyone seen our First Amendment? Has anyone discovered the ability to use racist material to educate people about its dangers? How incredibly unenlightened are we becoming that we can’t even allow anything inappropriate be said, lest someone gets “offended”? I’m no racist, and would never use the “n” word, but it was because rational, thinking people educated me that it was wrong at a very early age. We are increasingly becoming a bunch or whiny, thin-skinned, politically-correct but socially ignorant losers. Just ask the commander of the USS Enterprise, who was demoted and cast aside for building morale on his ship. Sheesh!

  29. intense_jack says:

    So they’ve decided to censor the American Novel? Seriously, Twain’s work is considered the essential American novel. Political correctness is just a form of fascism.

  30. Taed says:

    This issue is alive and well with modern books as well. The Newbury Award winner a few years back was _The Higher Power of Lucky_ (which I read and enjoyed) and right on the first page is something like “the snake bit my dog on the scrotum”. There was a hub-bub about whether this epitome of children’s literature should be allowed in elementary schools. (If you’re interested, Carol Lay has two comic strips mocking it which are worth tracking down.)

  31. Straspey says:

    In his wonderful 1992 book about the middle ages, titled “A World Lit Only By Fire”,
    William Manchester begins with the following:

    “The densest of the medieval centuries – the six hundred years between, roughly, A.D. 400 and A.D. 1000 – are still widely known as the Dark Ages. Modern historians have abandoned this phrase, one of them writes, “because of the unacceptable value judgement it implies.” Yet there are no survivors to be offended.”

    I think this sums up the issue very well – along with another mantra to which I subscribe, which is – It’s not my job to make sure that your feelings are not hurt.

    This subject can become very slippery when taken in an historic context. – For instance, J.S. Bach was a devout Lutheran in the 17th -18th Centuries (1685 – 1750) and, like any good Lutheran OF HIS TIME, he believed that Jesus was murdered by the Jews and His blood is on their hands.

    Obviously if the choir leader at a prominent Lutheran church were to make a public statement to that effect today, it would “go viral” and the negative reactions would be swift and severe.

    It’s always best hold a broader view of issues such as these.

  32. Murph1908 says:

    Wait. When did we become China?

  33. Katty says:

    I understand why, but here’s the thing. Kids are smarter then you think, they get it. Doing this sort of self-cleaning of American history is not going to help make them better people. It’s just going to make things worse.

  34. haggis for the soul says:

    This is a word I despise and never use. I despise censorship even more.

  35. MerlynNY says:

    This is stupid. While the word is considered offensive today, it was a common word used in Sawyer’s time when the book was written. This opens the door to other “masterpieces” being altered to suit today’s “PC” world. What’s next? Paintings? or Music?

    The book should stay in its original form whether or not the words inside are offensive. I think Sawyer just rolled in his grave.

    • Raanne says:

      “while considered offensive today” – wasn’t always considered offensive? Just because it was more commonly used, doesn’t mean the point of it wasn’t to be offensive.

      • evnmorlo says:

        I think it was meant to be descriptive. “Negro”, “colored”, “black”, “mulatto”, “African American” are too, but can also be used with sneer, and thus have been considered offensive at one time or another.

  36. tinyhands says:

    They also need to clean up all the vulgarities in the Bible. Way too much sex & incest and other stuff not fit for decent society.

    Of course, they’d have to take out all that superstitious “god & miracles” garbage too before I’d read it.

  37. AsFarAsYouKnow says:

    So basically what the Twain scholar who came up with the idea is saying is that context does not matter when it comes to the n-word; the word is patently offensive and should never be used, even when historically accurate.

    If the issue is truly a matter of how we express race in the 21st century why stop at Huck Finn? Isn’t it just as offensive in “Roots”? Or what about “Blazing Saddles”? Sure, the word is used to mock racists, but maybe we should replace it with something less offensive because we wouldn’t want to offend anyone.

    I am sure there are several historical speeches that use the word, perhaps we should edit it of them as well.

    All I’m saying is that if the word is offensive even in the proper context, you can’t pick and choose what you edit it out of. And the absurdity of editing it out of everything demonstrates the fact that context matters.

  38. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    erasing something from the written record doesn’t make it not have happened. part of the education around books that use terms not currently considered acceptable is teaching kids why it isn’t acceptable. it’s like some of the little house [on the prairie] books being banned. the library where i found out about that told me it was due to the mother’s [character in the book] view on native americans and her language regarding them in the text of the story. but if you ban the book then readers don’t get to read the thought processes of the little girl [the author] and how they differ from the older generation. it’s important to see the change in perceptions happening between the different characters.

  39. PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

    My son got a copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn last year and I noticed that the slurs were edited out in that version, too. And there were no references to “injuns” either.

    Honestly, I was a tad disappointed by this. I was looking forward to the discussions this would lead to. (Especially the “injun” talk.)

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      even walt disney world used the character “Injun Joe” on the Tom Sawyer’s Island part of the park at least up until the last time I worked at Disney in 2004. That’d really confuse some kids who read the cleaned up version and then have no idea who the character at the theme park is

    • haggis for the soul says:

      Buy him an unabridged/uncensored copy. You two can have that discussion after all.

  40. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Go ahead. If I have kids, I’ll just make sure they read the uncensored version I have on my bookshelf, and then we’ll have a discussion about censorship and language and political correctness ourselves. In fact, we’ll have that discussion long before they get to that book in school.

  41. Rachacha says:

    Bad move. I remember reading Tom Sawyer wneg I was in school, and the “”n” word was taboo back then, and “in” word was perceived by some to be offensive as well. But here is the thing, the teacher explained that the use of the word changed in the english language to move from an acceptable word to one that was in today’s society frowned upon, and you know what, the use of the terminology did not increase in school. I think that middle school and high school students are mature enough to realize that the words are offensive to some in today’s society and should not be used. I think, and hope that today’s society is changing. My son (now 9 years old) is caucasian, and for a while, he was the only caucasian in his class (the rest of his classmates were African American or Asian). It was just this year (3 years in his current school) before he mentioned to me that he noticed that he was the only one in his class with peach colored skin. When I asked him if it made him fell different or uncomfortable, or if people made fun of him, he said no, but he “wished he had chocolate skin because he liked chocolate”. I advised him that his skin tasted the same as “chocolate” skin, and that was the end of the conversation. He has three really close friends in his class, all are African American, and he has a bunch of friends on his soccer team from many different races, and I can’t see that he is treated differently, or he treats anyone differently because of skin color. Compare that to 30 some years ago when I was in school, and there clearly was a racial divide where the kids from different races stuck to their “kind”.

    I hope that this is a generational issue where stereotypes and old habits from the times of segragation are being forgotten as the 20 and 30 somethings who are generally more “colorblind” are now having kids and raising families so racism is not taught inadvertently by parents like in my generation. I also hope that the modification of classics stops. What is next, modifying history?

  42. bowtie says:

    The entire point is lost that Huck finds out it’s not alright to call his friend the N word. I think it would be a really good way for teachers to discuss these things with young kids reading the book. Replacing something real and still alive with something basically archaic in our society really throws out the entire lesson by softening the blow.

  43. framitz says:

    Oh yes, let’s tamper with history so our children lose the benefit of learning from it.
    The book is a depiction of the times and should not be tampered with.

  44. Ezra Zank says:

    Okay I’m a high school student and last year they had us read 1984 which has sex scenes in it, the color purple which has LESBIAN sex scenes in it, and of mice and men which has a mentally handicapped person whom they end up shooting in the back of the head, which they also did to another characters crusty old diseased dying dog. All of these topics are controversial, but no one bans them or censors them. Yet Huck Finn-one of my favorite books by the way-is censored because of the n word? That’s dumb.

  45. JackTripper says:

    I remember reading Huck Finn in fifth grade after I checked it out of my city public library, stumbling across the “n word” and being shocked but still having the good sense to know that we don’t talk like that now and that’s how people talked back then. If school libraries don’t want to carry the book, so be it, but since Mr. Twain is not here to defend himself, leave his book alone.

  46. LanMan04 says:

    You do not censor/rewrite literature. EVER.

    End of line.

  47. El_Fez says:

    It’s been years (like decades) since I read the book, but wasn’t the whole point of calling Jim a nigger to show how it dehumanized blacks? Twain wasn’t using it just because he hated darkies, it was to make a point.

    That’s it – come this Banned Book Month, I’m reading this again, just to stick it to the man.

  48. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    I think it would be much more fun to substitute the politically correct phrase “enslaved African American” for each and every instance i.e. “Tom told enslaved African American Jim to fetch a pail of river water”. It’s a bit funny that people are offended by any use of the word; I never see blacks /H/H/H/H I mean colored people greet each other with “How’s it going, African American?”

    I’d like to see ‘Injun’ become a real word and used in a non-discriminatory way. Many of my friends are from India and it is sometimes confusing when discussing things. ‘Indian’ for East Indian and ‘Injun’ for American Indian.

  49. KayJay says:

    Why don’t they go a step further and publish Romeo and Juliet in plain English? Americans don’t speak Shakepearan English, after all. Why not change the ending to “Romeo and Juliet live happily ever after?” I mean, we wouldn’t want our young, stupid children to think it’s ok to commit suicide over your first love, right?!

  50. RickinStHelen says:

    When I was a TA in grad school, we used a small paperback hisory book published in the 1940s as part of the course. Part of the reason, was to show how things have changed. The facts were the same, but perceptions had changed. The instructor pointed out the book called Indians savages, but said to read it in the context of the day, and to realize the attitudes were racist and out of date. Of course a student found it offensive, and with the help of a humanities teacher, filed a complaint. When it was discovered that the instructor and I were both tribal citizens, and the students were forewarned about the wording and insensitivity of the language, the complaint was dismissed. The book did foster healthy discussions on racial attitudes, and how things change.

    We can change the N word in Huck Finn to marshmallow for all I care, but you lose the true context, the jarring reality of the work, and the opportunity to lead incredible discussions with the students about the subject.

    Maybe we should edit history as follows. Lynchings were merely opportunities for elevated learning, Race Riots that burned Watts and Detroit in the 60s were merely heated discussions, forced removal of Indians were merely government housing and travel assistance programs, and the Ku Klux Klan was merely a civic organization that lobbied for change and fairness in government policy, sort of like the NAACP.

  51. thedarkerside.to says:


    A book is not only a story being told but also a reflection of the time it was written in. To “sanitise the language” has a 1984 vibe to it.

    War is Peace, after all.

  52. madmallard says:

    …. Wasn’t there a “Family Ties” episode about this 20 years ago?

  53. scurvycapn says:

    I’d like to quote something said on another forum about this topic: “If reading about people calling Jim a nigger makes some southerners uncomfortable, I say that’s a good thing. It’s part of the history of the south and it needs to be confronted and acknowledged. Trying to sanitize it does more harm than good, I say.”

    Instead of reading a classic which could be used as a discussion point, these people are being cowards and completing skirting around the entire issue. This is appalling.

    • JiminyChristmas says:

      Our society has already had remarkable success sanitizing the history of the South, so why stop now? Look at the success of the “state’s rights” concept, which would have us believe that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery or that Jim Crow was nothing at all like apartheid. It’s the same mindset where someone can have a Stars & Bars decal on their truck and claim it symbolizes freedom, not terrorizing black people. Facts are facts and some things have inherent meanings regardless of what people would like them to mean.

      • AlphaLackey says:

        “It’s the same mindset where someone can have a Stars & Bars decal on their truck and claim it symbolizes freedom, not terrorizing black people”

        .. or black people using the “n-word” and saying it’s okay for THEM (and only them) to use it because they’re trying to ‘reclaim it’?

  54. Tim says:

    I think it’s important for people to know the word was there at one point. This probably makes it harder for people to know that, or it at least makes it so it doesn’t hit people as hard.

    Yes, there was a time when we, as a country, thought that word was acceptable. Yes, we don’t feel that way any more. This change is attempting to erase that.

    Yeah … I don’t really agree with it.

  55. trogdor@burninate.net says:

    No need to “pirate” the original book. Its copyright has long expired and it’s freely available. http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/76

  56. RayanneGraff says:

    It’s a horrible, hideous word, but I really don’t agree with this. What’s next, taking all offensive words out of the dictionary? Wiping all references to slavery from the history books? Things happened in the past, ugly things, but we can’t just pretend they didn’t happen. That book was written during a time in history when that word was commonly used. We shouldn’t go around re-editing every book with a bad word in it. I promise kids aren’t going to suffer from reading that word, in fact, I think it’s a good thing for them to read it because it illustrates how things USED to be versus how they are now.

  57. Eli the Ice Man says:

    Students everywhere celebrate the desecration of yet another celebrated piece of literature by blasting rap songs laced with racially offensive language.

  58. theotherwhitemeet says:

    Thank you Ministry of Truth!

    Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.

  59. TacomaRogue says:

    I first read this book when I was 8 offensive words and all. I wasn’t horribly traumitized, infact I wasn’t even phased by it. Since I didn’t know what the word meant I asked my mom who had me look it up then we talked about what it meant. I knew that there were racial slurs, being half Mexican I had been called some, and I knew that only small-minded, ignorant people used them. This generation of kids is going to be in for a world of hurt and confusion when they leave the nest and mommy isn’t there to keep all the bad, mean things out of their life and hand them everything on a silver platter.

  60. radio1 says:

    What audiences would finally read this book now that the word nigger is out of the book? Those school boards? The book burners? The anti-historians? The racists?

    But the strange thing is the word nigger then– was prevalent, so much so, that an average 10 year old boy would think of nothing but to call a black man a nigger. (Even if he feels or learns to feel bad about it later.) But the word nigger has so much more gravitas as a heinous expression given all those more years of pervasive racism.

    But, I believe it should still be as kept in as tool for learning. You don’t whitewash it out and forget it. And certainly I’m not even touching the issue that it is ART and should be kept whole. Sure, you want to make a derivative work or adaptation on TV, radio, Broadway or the movies?? Have at it, I won’t like it as well, but it IS more understandable to me.

  61. JustMe2011 says:

    Why not just take the typical leftist “solution” and destroy all copies of the book? I’m sure the left would be up for a good book-burning in the name of political correctness. Maybe they can label Huck a “hate crime terrorist” and start screaming about having to destroy the book for the sake of the children. People who read things like the NYT would be all for that.

  62. mmcnary says:

    God first made an idiot. That was for practice. Then he made a school board.

  63. loquaciousmusic says:

    Language matters. Writers choose their words carefully. This is despicable.

  64. It_Figures says:

    Dear “Twain scholar” (Do you happen to have a name?):

    “”Race matters in these books. It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.””

    How can you assume that the idea of “how you express that in the 21st century” is more important than how it was originally expressed?

    Sadly you sound like a visionary with one eye.

  65. frob23 says:

    As a school teacher, I have been repeatedly shot-down when I have attempted to teach from these books in my classroom. Even attempting to get letters of permission from parents was denied by those above be because of the backlash it was likely to cause.

    The value of “Huck Finn” doesn’t come solely from the use of the n-word. And removing it will also remove a HUGE barrier for me when it comes to letting my students appreciate the rest of what the book has to offer. I would love to buy a complete class set of these editions for my class. This thrills me in a way few things have.

    I’ve read the original and it holds a treasured place on my bookshelf. I love it and would never want it to go away. But printing this edition doesn’t make all the original copies cease to exist. There are many abridged versions of this tale out there and I originally read one of them when I was a child. It inspired me to read the full version as an adult. As long as someone points out that the book being read is “not” the original… and the original remains available (which I can’t see changing)… this is awesome.

  66. Ben says:

    The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.

    Twain said that. New South should have listened.

  67. tz says:

    First, there is a lot of other junk called art which is merely bad pornography which would be much more deserving of censorship.

    Second, we ought to be more worried about of what we are teaching. Someone found the textbook that was being taught by Scopes in the “scopes trial” fame http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes/hunt196.htm which states the Negro race is the lowest and the Caucasian the highest. What other nonsense are we teaching today that 50-100 years from now will make us appear to be barbaric?

    Huck Finn has ugly parts but they are supposed to be ugly. It was ugly. Sanitizing it makes it appear that everyone was much nicer back then.

  68. parabolic says:

    Isn’t this just one version of the book though? Not that I’m condoning what they’ve done, but surely there are alternative versions that are available that are true to the writer’s version.

    I haven’t read all the comments yet, but I’m looking forward to the “slippery slope we are all switching to newspeak soon” posts.

  69. Jimmy37 says:

    Good thing I can download all the n words I want from Project Gutenberg, http://www.gutenberg.org/ No PC there

  70. Kevin Welz says:

    I hate that word. I will say a lot of nasty things and curse like a sailor but despise the use of that word. However this book should not be censored. The use of the word is important for the context of the book. And censoring it is just plain wrong.

  71. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Ahhh, revisionist history. It’s what’s for dinner.

  72. DoktorGoku says:

    Going back and editing things to fit the current worldview seems pretty Orwellian to me.

  73. Munchtime says:

    Next, I hope they FINALLY put pants on Michelangelo’s David in all the history and art books used in the classroom!

  74. maruawe says:

    writers have a way to give their books the touch of realism. during the period that this book was written the verbiage was the language of the day. Mark Twain did a very good job of writing in this book. very authentic. The people who want to change the classics to reflect the changes in verbiage should look at themselves and cry, What next the bible? Censorship in any form is still censorship. Should these changes take place then History will not be history but the reflections of a few misguided individuals that believe that classics and history can be changed to give themselves a pat on the back to sooth their ego’s They are in my own opinion are misguided fools that cannot accept that the world is not exactly what they want it to be.

  75. Cetan says:

    Institute a ESRB for books. Just slap an “M” rating on Huck Finn and other books and call it good.