Rafting down the Mississippi river with a runaway slave, Huckleberry Finn comes to see the hypocrisy of antebellum society.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens' (a.k.a Mark Twain) classic story about a young ruffian rafting down the river with a runaway slave is the original Great American Novel. According to the American library Association, it is also the 4th most commonly challenged and banned book in America.
In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn is just the playmate of the title character but Huck Finn's own story takes on a totally different flavor than Tom's . Although the story was set prior to the Civil War, it was actually published in post-slavery 1885.
It became the centre of controversy during Twain's lifetime for its use of "vulgar", colloquial language and because it "portrayed the South in a bad light".
"In 2003 high school student Calista Phair and her grandmother, Beatrice Clark, in Renton, Washington, proposed banning the book from classroom learning in the Renton School District, though not from any public libraries, because of the word "nigger". Clark filed a request with the school district in response to the required reading of the book, asking for the novel to be removed from the English curriculum. The two curriculum committees that considered her request eventually decided to keep the novel on the 11th grade curriculum, though they suspended it until a panel had time to review the novel and set a specific teaching procedure for the novel and its controversial topics."
In 2007 Ibrahim Mohamed, a North Richland Hills, Texas, student, requested the word “nigger” be changed to “the N-word”. According to him, the teacher responded by asking him, “Does it offend you? It hurts, doesn’t it?” A group called “The Coalition to Stop the N-Word” requested the school board send a written apology to the family, give sensitivity training to all the teachers, and ban the book based on the feelings of the Mohamed family. In response, the school board said it would try to find better ways in which to present the novel and its controversial content to students.
n 2009 a Washington state high school teacher called for the removal of the novel from a school curriculum. The teacher, John Foley, called for replacing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with a more modern novel. In an opinion column that Foley wrote in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, he states that all "novels that use the ‘N-word’ repeatedly need to go".
I couldn't disagree with Foley more. It is no coincidence that some of the most important literary works on race repeatedly use "nigger". Not only does Mark Twin use it, but William Faulkner, Harper Lee, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker all make their characters say "nigger". Central to the discussion of race in America is the discussion of its use in art & conversation. The idea that schools shouldn't use these books in their classroom because of political correctness just pisses me off, especially knowing that so many kids watch videos and listen to music that uses the word. All of this is covered under the basic human right of free speech. This right is so important because it allows the discussion and free flow of ideas. Stifle it and you have silenced the voice of racial history in the classroom.