UPDATE: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is returned to the classroom (1/9/08)

Objecting to racially sensitive language in the book, a parent has challenged Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn place in the 11th grade English curriculum at Manchester High School in Manchester, CT. The book is currently under review by the Superintendent’s office.

Below is NCAC’s Letter to the Editor of Manchester’s Journal Inquirer.

If one book is banned, what’s next?

Manchester Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Ouellette should reject the effort by some parents to remove Mark Twain’s "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" from the 11th grade English curriculum at Manchester High School.

"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is an important work of literature from one of our country’s most celebrated authors. The book is widely studied in high schools throughout the country. First published in 1884, the book examined and challenged then-prevailing social attitudes, including racism.

If the school bans books with racial content, what’s next? "The Color Purple," by Alice Walker? "The Bluest Eye," by Toni Morrison? "Native Son," by Richard Wright?

What a tragedy it would be for all students if they missed out on the opportunity to read these and other books about the African-American experience in English class, where the books can be openly discussed and properly contextualized.

We appreciate the concerns of parents about language they find offensive and history they would rather erase.

Instead of removing books, however, the school should address these concerns by explaining the educational value of such books, including additional materials in the curriculum, and providing opportunities for students and parents to discuss how the novels address the role of race in American life.

Parents who still object can seek an alternative assignment for their children, but no parent has the right to dictate what other students should read and learn.

Joan Bertin
The writer is the executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship in New York.

Read NCAC’s Letter on the Journal Inquirer online (12/26/07)