Censorship of Huckleberry Finn
As parents, it is important for you to know what information your child receives, especially in the learning environment of a classroom. The thought of your child reading a racially offensive book is unacceptable. Some people find Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn racially offensive. If you as parents perceive this book to be offensive, it may lead some of you to request that teachers and administrators not allow students to read this book in school. I ask that you consider other options before taking this action. The actual reasons for the censorship of Huckleberry Finn depend on many other factors: fear of uneducated or insensitive teachers leading student discussions, school administrators who wish to avoid controversy and discomfort with acknowledging our country's painful history.
What some people find offensive about this story is the language Huck Finn uses. In the story, Huck often refers to Jim as a "nigger," which some groups find unnecessary and reprehensible. In the minds of administrators and teachers, there is an easy solution by using less-controversial books. John Wallace, a school superintendent, writes, "Pejorative terms should not be granted any legitimacy by their use in the classroom under the guise of teaching books of great literary merit, nor for any other reason" (18). Why are we afraid of these "pejorative terms," instead of explaining to students what they mean and why white people used to use them to address African-Americans? Yet instead of finding out why we worry if the children read a derogative term used commonly over a century ago, we ignore the subject and pat ourselves on the backs for saving children's minds. Huckleberry Finn addresses topics dealing with race which are still relevant today. We cannot expect to solve the racial problems today by banning literature that deals directly with these issues. Twain writes about a friendship between a slave and a white youth; he demonstrates the lack of reason behind racist thought. These topics are not harmful to African-Americans, and if taught correctly, can be a positive learning experience.
Instead of addressing these issues, administrators often remove the controversial book from the class reading list and replace it with another book. Former Justice William Douglas is noted for his concern with First Amendment freedoms on the Supreme Court. He writes, "The First Amendment does not say that there is freedom of expression provided the talk is not 'dangerous'.