New Version of Huckleberry Finn Omits the Word “Nigger”

Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published for the first time in the United States in 1885, is considered by many to be an American literary masterpiece. But many scholars are disturbed by Twain’s use of racial stereotypes and the frequent use of the word “nigger” by Huck Finn, the narrator of the story. There have been numerous incidents where the book has been banned in high school classrooms or where African-American parents have protested the use of the book in high school English classes.

Now a new edition of the novel, published by NewSouth Books, has removed all instances of the use of the word “nigger” and substituted these references with the word “slave.” Alan Gribben, a professor at the Montgomery campus of Auburn University who edited the new version, told Publishers Weekly, “Race matters in these books. It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.”

Critics of the change have cried “censorship” and have categorized the new edition as bowing to political correctness. But one argument in favor of the change is that the book will be less offensive to many readers and therefore may not provoke protests when it is introduced into the curriculum. So the book might receive greater exposure than before.

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