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Exploring The New Huckfinn

 

   NEW YORK - Expunging the N-word from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” deprives students of the “teachable moment” its presence in the novel creates says a black scholar.  But retaining it deprives others of experiencing the novel in school at all says a white publisher of a sanitized version catering to school districts that have banned the book because of the word.   Byron Pitts talks to both men, as well as teachers and students for a 60 MINUTES story about the N-word in American society to be broadcast Sunday, March 20 

 

            Randall Williams, co-owner and editor of NewSouth Books, republished “Huckleberry Finn” with "slave" replacing over 200 appearances of the N-word.  He believes the new edition can still offer a teachable moment as well as an alternative for school districts unwilling to inject the word into their classrooms.  Prof. David Bradley of the University of Oregon uses the word in the classroom and disagrees with the use of the new edition, telling Pitts, “You use the term ‘teachable moment’ and that’s what [n*&^%$] gives you.  That’s why it’s important to keep it in there,” says the author and Mark Twain scholar.  “I call “Huckleberry Finn” a power tool when it comes to education,” says Bradley.  “There are so many things [in it] that pry things open…That teachable moment is when that word hits the table in a classroom. Everybody goes ‘wooh’ Okay, let’s talk about it.”

 

            But some teachers will not utter the word in their classrooms even if it’s in the book.  Pitts talks to teachers in Minneapolis who are discussing the traditional novel in class. One will say the N-word in class and the other will not. Their students also had divided opinions about saying the word in class; a black student said it made him uncomfortable. That’s why his version is needed says Williams.  “It is the word itself that is the problem…all these repetitive instances of the offensive N-word in there,” he tells Pitts.   “Is the argument that these kids should be subjected to pain?” he asks. Williams feels it is better to replace the N-word with “slave,” avoiding any pain and giving those who would not get a chance to study it at all an opportunity to experience what many feel is one of the greatest pieces of American literature.

 

            “It’s not ‘Huckleberry Finn” anymore,’” counters Bradley.   “What are we teaching them [by removing the N-word]? This may be their first encounter with slavery.”  He says that to withhold the N-word is to avoid an integral reality. “‘Slave’ is a condition…nothing for anybody to be ashamed of,” says Bradley, “But [n*&^%$] has to do with shame…calling somebody something.  [N*&^%$] is what made slavery possible.”

 


STORY TAGS: Black News, African American News, Minority News, Civil Rights News, Discrimination, Racism, Racial Equality, Bias, Equality, Afro American News



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