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WDAY: The News Leader

Published January 07, 2011, 08:24 AM

Should Twain Classics be Censored for Racial Language?

FARGO, ND (WDAY TV)-People across the country are outraged over controversial changes being made to two of the most popular and classic American novels, written back in the 1800's. An Alabama publisher is removing derogatory words and replacing them in Mark Twain's books The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.

By: Travis Skonseng, WDAY

FARGO, ND (WDAY TV)-People across the country are outraged over controversial changes being made to two of the most popular and classic American novels, written back in the 1800's.

An Alabama publisher is removing derogatory words and replacing them in Mark Twain's books The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.

Parents and students have called for the removal of Huck Finn from reading lists for more than half a century. Some have even sued schools. It's the fourth most banned book in schools, but now that may change with a new option for readers.

“Changing the book is going to take away from the book,” said Diane Heiden of West Fargo.

It's a sentiment sweeping the nation. Critics like Heiden are upset a publisher is altering two books many people have loved and read for decades.

“To me it's just going to take away from what they're going to learn what it was really like in them days,” said Heiden.

The most significant change would be replacing the n-word with “slave” in Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, first published in 1885. It’s an inflammatory racial epithet seen 4 times in Tom Sawyer, 219 in Huck Finn.

Opponents call the move censorship. They argue these are Mark Twain's books, and his writings or teachings about mankind, in a different time.

“I learned that there's a lot of diversity, and I learned a lot from the book just how two people from different backgrounds can depend on each other,” said Jena Piper of Moorhead.

Others are on the fence. They, like publisher Alan Gribbons, say the alterations will offer an option for people, offended by the offensive language.

“It's a good option to keep that out there for schools that want that so that the students that don’t like to get exposed to that sort of literature,” said Adeeti Katti of Fargo.

For Diane Heiden, the books are historical. She read them growing up in Frazee, a mainly white community in the 1980's.

“No I don't believe in the n-word. I don't think it should be used, but in that book, it's classic,” she said.

The publisher is changing the villain in Tom Sawyer from "injun Joe" to "indian Joe" and "half-breed" to "half-blood."

The revised editions will be published next month, with only 7,500 copies.

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