Censorship of Huck Finn
The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
-Samuel Clemens, October 15, 1888
I’m a little late to the game on this, but Alabama publisher NewSouth Books is going to publish Huckleberry Finn with the word nigger replaced with slave, and I am seething fucking mad about it.
Language is an important, powerful tool and no modern author knew this better than Mark Twain. This book, this book, is a powerful story about the evils of slavery and these words, the words we used, are integral not only to the story, but to our understanding of our own past.
I am a tall, white, dude. I sit in the most privileged class of person in at least the last thousand years. If not for stories like these, I would likely have a completely different worldview. At the top of my list are books like Huckleberry Finn and The Handmaid’s Tale. My earliest memories of story include Mark Twain and I believe, looking back on it, that these stories (and many others) helped give me a more open way of thinking.
If you don’t like the word nigger, and I fucking hate it, then you should be the first in line to fight for it to remain in Huck Finn. Because children need to read this, they need to understand that this is way people spoke, thought, and treated each other and that it was wrong. It IS wrong. If this is gone from our history, we will not be able to have that conversation, we won’t be able to teach from experience. If we can’t teach those lessons, then we are doomed to repeat our mistakes, failures, and atrocities.