In January of 2011 NewSouth Books in Montgomery, Alabama decided to release a version of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn replacing the word “nigger” with “slave” 219 times. The idea to replace the word came from Alan Gribben, a professor of English at Auburn University at Montgomery, who approached the publisher in July 2010.
The decision sparked a debate among educators and parents about whether this new edition would be just an alternative that would allow schools that have previously banned the book to include it in their curriculum or an example of censorship.
Huckleberry Finn has been banned on a number of occasions, including within the author’s lifetime. Both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were excluded from the juvenile sections of the Brooklyn Public library (among others) and banned from the library in Concord, MA, home of Henry Thoreau. Recently, some high schools have dropped Huckleberry Finn from their reading lists, or have been sued by parents who want the book dropped. A well known lawsuit in Tempe, Arizona that attempted to get the local high school to remove the book from a required reading list, went as far as a federal appeals court in 1998 (Monteiro v. The Tempe Union High School District)
60 Minutes did an entire special on the controversy where teachers, academics and students commented. The segment largely dealt with whether the epithet should be considered essential when teaching the book. Among those who were interviewed included Editor-in-Chief for NewSouth Books Randall Williams and author David Bradley, who teaches at the University of Oregon.
This new version of the book is obscuring the original intent of the author and does not allow those reading the book to adequately address the subject of race relations social attitudes in the South during that time period.
The censored book was published and released this past February.