January 5th, 2011
11:15 AM ET
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. ron

    Two things.
    When I was a young student, reading about the history of Russia, one comment stood out in my mind. The author wrote that throughout Russian history, They would "rewrite" their history to suit those currently in power.
    It was NOT intended as a compliment. And as a young man with a thirst for knowledge, it was quite worrisome that what I was reading might have already been rewritten. Then where could I find the truth?
    So are we now to rewrite our history to suit the times?

    Secondly, there is a very wise saying, by the author George Santayana,
    "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

    Imagine, a future where many people decide they are too offended by, for instance the holocaust. Well, hey, that's controversial. Let's erase all mention of it, stick our heads in the sand, and pretend it never happened...

    Until the next time.
    Hmmm? A wise choice?

    January 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  2. Rachel

    This is absolutely appalling. Censoring the n-word out of these types of literary works removes the feeling that the word evokes. There is a big difference in the feeling evoked from the word "slave" and the feeling evoked from the n-word. Nevermind the fact that the author is not here to give his permission to this defamation of his work. As horrific as it was, slavery was at one time a part of our history and a part of our American culture. To remove, either in part or in whole, even a word that marked a part of our history that got us to where we are today is to turn our backs on everything that the black people went through to get us to where we are now. What's next? Do we just pretend that slavery and the mistreatment of blacks and teh African people never happened?

    January 7, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  3. Guy

    So if we will sanitize the works of Mark Twain, what of the great American Story "The Color Purple."
    Will we relegate ourselves to such hypocrisy to differentiate the literary works of a White Man in contrast to a non-white Woman?
    what of Popular Hip Hop Music?
    Will "NWA" become Northwestern Americans?
    Will the popular rappers stop using the word as it is so offensive as to destroy literary works.
    And what of the NFL?
    When will we stop forcing the Term "redskin" on my Family for the sake of sport?

    I tire of the inferred plight of inequality for one when in Fact the inequality is so widespread and diverse that it it is in fact, equal.

    We cry for equality and inclusion, yet we cling to titles of (Race)-American in an attempt to victimize ourselves.
    Only when we accept our past and all become AMERICANS will be all be equally American.

    January 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  4. Lorraine D Maguire

    We have just got to get a grip on reality!! This "great" work of art...was written in a time when that was the way things were written...it was NOT written as some derogatory work!! I think we just can not be so sensitive!! Children need to be exposed to all types of literature...DO NOT let the complainers change this "literary genius" words!!

    January 6, 2011 at 7:14 am |
  5. Annie Kate

    I do not agree with censuring literature to make it politically correct for the times. Huckleberry Finn is considered by many to be one of the Great American Novels. The book is among the first in major American literature to be written in the vernacular and characterized by local color regionalism and attitudes. Huck Finn satirizes the Southern Antebellum society as well as the time after the war with its Jim Crow Laws – it takes a scathing look at entrenched attitudes in society of that time and exposes the ugly underbelly of society, particularly racism. While today the N-word is socially unacceptable and we know that slavery is wrong, it is through books like this one that past attitudes were shown to be cruel and wrong and present attitudes nurtured. To edit out the original language only sanitizes our history and smooths out the rough edges – this in the long run is not a favor to anyone. We need to remember our past in all its glory and all its ugliness lest we forget the cruelty that is inherent in any society and we repeat our mistakes.

    January 5, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  6. Jessica Castro

    I've read and studied Huck Finn. I'm a JR. in High School and i want to support Huck Finn on how the realistic knowledge that is used in this novel is appropriate. Because the use of the N- word in this novel its now being threatend that there going to replace the N- word for the word slave. Its not original and all the N- word is, is for showing what it was like back then and giving proof of its history and how things were treated. There's no racism involved, it's actually teaching us how it was and what really went on. Huck Finn is a great novel and i advise anyone to read its origional copy and not an edited version, it just would'nt be the same.

    January 5, 2011 at 5:19 pm |

    I understand the sensitivity of the "N" word. In college 40 years ago my friend (a black man) told me that the "N" has nothing to do with the color of a mans skin, that is represents the color of his heart.

    I do not believe that was true in the Mark Twains time, however, we should not rewrite history. We were not perfect then and we are not perfect now.

    Let's clean up our act today, by eliminating the "N" word from all lyrics in music publish in the rap music industry. This will go a long way in helping to eliminate it's acceptance at any "current" level.

    Just another view!


    January 5, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  8. Kelly

    Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn is a literary masterpiece that is often misinterpreted as a child's novel. While it contains child-like adventures and naivety, in reality it deals with some very difficult issues. The use of the N-word should not be offensive in this context; instead it should open up a classroom conversation about why it was used and how the relationship between Huck and Jim is hinged on this word. This novel should be read by kids who are old enough to understand the context and have a conversation about its meaning and implications. Removing the N-word is an insult to the book and detracts from the commentary it makes about the time period and our roles in society.

    January 5, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  9. john stevens TORONTO

    While they're at it why don't they edit slavery out of the history books? Everyone is probably embarrassed by something in their past. The idea of erassing the past because it's controversial or embarrassing, for whatever reason, is nuts. The past needs to be acknowledged and remembered however ugly it may be. We can learn from our past make a better future in which we won't make the same mistakes again.

    January 5, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  10. Marcus Belmore

    Boyce Watkins is a professor of finance. It seems strange that he was brought in to speak as an authority on this issue. Perhaps someone actually involved in the field would've been a better choice.

    January 5, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  11. Martina

    How can kids trust educators and adults if 'unpleasant' history is censored because it's offensive to others and avoided?

    The past isn't pretty and censoring only pretends it was. Avoiding past evils prevents the future from being better.

    Like being "politically correct" is avoiding teaching people to be respectful and sensitive towards others.

    Desensitizing is what people are becoming towards evils, crime, bullying. There is always an excuse. Always someone else to blame. Personal responsibility isn't expected anymore.

    Kids can't learn what is right, how to treat people if the past evils & wrongs aren't acknowledge. The evils and wrongs will only continue.

    January 5, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  12. Gaetana Drake

    I am absolutely against censorship and against use of the N-word in today's society. But the world was different when these books were written and they reflect society's attitudes of that time. If we censure or erase our past, we are doomed to repeat it.

    January 5, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  13. Dan

    If the N-word is so wrong why does our society praise rappers like Jay-Z whose lyrics teach young black men (and others) that it's okay to say it. And the word ending in (_a) is the same as ending in (_er)...ask any non-white person who uses it in a crowd of black people!

    January 5, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  14. ray

    I say leave it alone. It was written that way. Why is it when one person is offended the whole world has to change for it.Thats how things were back in the day, that can't be changed besides I look at it this way when blacks stop calling themselves the N word then you may have grounds to omit it from the book. Nobody is making them read the book.There are other books out there to read...try one!!!!!

    January 5, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  15. Scott Barney

    This is a very sensitive area. I don't think great literature should ever be modified. But I can remember reading Huck Finn in school. Every time the N word was read in class, kids would giggle or look back at the only African American in our class. I wanted to jump up and start punching people. I really wish I could give you a good answer.

    January 5, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  16. Larry from Biloxi MS

    It's not like they're destroying all the originals. If there someone out there that prefers to read some outdated racism, please feel free to purchase the original.

    I don't believe we had this much of a problem when they came out with different versions of the bible. Get a grip people.

    January 5, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  17. Rickster

    History can be offensive. The only thing that is more offensive is the ignorance of people looking to somehow soften the pain.

    January 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  18. Wayne Lewis

    I agree with Associate Professor Andre Perry and Ms. Micheala Angela Davis, and here is why:
    The N word, for all of my 55 years has been used by more people than I can count. In every venue, every medium, and media outlet, by every race of people, gender and nationality. It is almost a right of passage to include the N-word in written dialogue, songs, movies, or wherever the greatest bang for the buck can be achieved. It has been given the perspective of being used affectionately, or as an insult, or to incite anger and violence.

    Nevertheless, The N-word is one word that continues to live on because it is one of the most derrogatory terms that can be used against African Americans, even by other African Americans against one another. Yet, I don't believe that removing the word from Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn book(s) is doing any more than revising a historical piece, that would not bring about the same response, passion, or necessarily the same desire and appreciation for the original works.

    The N-word is as much necessary to be appreciated today as when it was written, despite the derrogatory impact it has. I don't condone its use by me, or anyone else in everyday language, but I don't believe that we should go back and change the historical depiction of someone else's genuine display or perspective of how they witnessed, or participated in an event, regardless of how offensive.

    It's time we stop babying our children, because many of them are more grown at their age than many of us were at the same age. Our children are extremely intelligent, and determine for themselves who, what, when, where, and how things are the way that they are, if given the benefit of the doubt and taught valuable life lessons, rather than withold worthwhile life experiences. Our children, they'll be all right. Let them experience what was, and what is, and let them grow up strong because we did not soft-sell what is really happening in our American life, or in the world around them. Our children, they'll be all right.

    January 5, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  19. Frankie Marcum

    I don't use the word, but, Why is it ok for the "N" word to be used in the black cultures music, and slang, but its not ok for it to be in an American Classic? It should be one way or the other, if offends if white people use the same terminology they use to each other..it just seems its pick and chose what to complain about with that word.

    January 5, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  20. Suzanne J. McGuire

    Leave the classic alone! The word was used back then and it wasn't always derogatory. If they change Twain's work, what's next; the Bible, Orsen Wells' Animal Farm? There are going to be books that will upset people, it's just going to happen. If you don't want kids to read the book, then it's the parents' responsibility for their kids, not anyone else! I read it when I was young and I'm just fine.

    January 5, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  21. Cheryl

    If so many people are going to worry about this word in these classic works, then we have to take on all dictionaries that contain the word. Sorry fellow Americans, but the word does exist...taking it out of the novels, is not going to make the word go away or keep those words from our childrens ears.

    January 5, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  22. amina

    Why not have kids read a Black classic like "Native Son or Black Boy" by Richard Wright.THe reading list should be more diverse to reflect society.

    January 5, 2011 at 12:12 pm |