Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Censoring Huck Finn: A History

The recent news that Huckleberry Finn would be republished without the 219 uses of the word "nigger" (used by Mark Twain in a context to condemn racism and slavery, incidentally) brings up the history of censoring and suppression involved with the Samuel Clemens literary classic. How old is this history? Mary M. Alward has the answer:
The question, “Should Huckleberry Finn be banned?” was first posed in 1885 – the year the book about an interracial friendship was first published - when official committee members of the Public Library of Concord, Massachusetts said, "rough, coarse and inelegant, dealing with a series of experiences not elevating, the whole book being more suited to the slums that to intelligent, respectable people."

Despite the haters, the book has its deserved defenders. Margaret Norris, an African American teacher from San Francisco, describes the book best: “This is how you are, like it or not and that’s why the book is so painful and important, because he is still telling us today.” Or maybe even is Ernest Hemingway in 1935, who said that "all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn... All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”

Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn: A History of Censorship for the Banned American Literature Classic
Mary M. Alward
Jan 13, 2001

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