I listened to an NPR type grilling the fellow who has edited out the “N” words from Huckleberry Finn. My family read the book out loud when I was a kid and I was aware of the controversy over the N word’s use by junior high if not before. I certainly did not grow up using the word even though I heard it from others and in the reading of Huck Finn.
My initial reaction to the new H Finn edition was sort of a big “so what.” If every Huckleberry Finn was going to be cleaned up from now on I’d strongly object but its only this one version. In some ways it would have been a bigger deal 50 years ago. It might have made Huckleberry a lot less objectionable then. Today it seems pretty anti climactic although if this is what must be done to get the book read the purging is not the worst thing that could happen.
In my first successful race for the School Board I had to face an angry community of black men who wanted another young adult novel pulled from school library shelves because of the word. The Board backed the librarians and kept the book available.
A more remarkable instance of editing is being performed by the new Republican conquerers of the House of Representatives. They will be reading the U.S. Constitution out loud to America when they get started. However they are going to clean it up first because, like school children, American’s can’t handle the racist parts. Some original Constitutional language that is still in the document will not be read such as this:
(Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.)
The excuse is that later amendments have made these passages irrelevant. Its not unlike the Southern claim that state’s rights not slavery was the cause of the Civil War.
Today’s American Heritage Magazine happens to have a good little article pointing out that today the South has successfully propagandized Americans into thinking this to be true. Its patently false. Ironically the South of 1860 wanted Northern states to surrender their right to run their own affairs for example by preventing freed black men from voting. The South jumped for joy when the all southerner Supreme Court imposed slavery on Northern states in its Dred Scot decision.
Evidently only about 20% of Americans realize that it was slavery, slavery, slavery (oh, and a couple other things) that was/were the primary reason for the Civil War. My Grandfather got his masters in History from Columbia University right next to Grant’s Tomb in 1915 the year of DW Griffiths Birth of a Nation. Columbia’s History Dept was under the sway of a couple of the leading revisionist historians of their Era who conceded to the South the justice of the Confederate Cause. I’ve been meaning to write a book about it. Too bad I’ve already got a dozen other books in mind which I ought to write first.
When I was a kid few self respecting, white Southerners would have been a Republican from that party of the hated Abraham Lincoln. Strom Thurmond the Dixiecrat who railed against the mongrelization of the races began the GOP’s Southern takeover. He died at age 100 before the public would learn of his own mongrelizing.
I’m sure Strom, were he alive, would endorse the reading of the Constitution. If only the GOP would read the Gettysburg Address. Doing so would probably split the Party.