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'Huckleberry Finn' faces more expulsions as Democratic state lawmakers want the book out of all schools

Two New Jersey Democrats want Mark Twain's famous novel pulled from curricula in the state

Image source: YouTube video screenshot

Two New Jersey lawmakers want Mark Twain's 1884 novel, "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," removed from the curricula in all the state's schools, over its controversial use of the N-word "and its depiction of racist attitudes."

If successful, New Jersey schools would join districts in four other states in banning the book from required reading lists.

What are the details?

Politico reported Thursday on a nonbinding resolution filed by New Jersey state Assembly members Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D) and Jamel Holley (D), which argues, "The novel's use of a racial slur and its depictions of racist attitudes can cause students to feel upset, marginalized or humiliated and can create an uncomfortable atmosphere in the classroom."

The resolution notes that several school districts in the U.S. have already replaced "Huckleberry Finn" in their curricula, including in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Minnesota, and Mississippi.

Reynolds-Jackson and Holley echoed the language used by Michael Cary, the Duluth, Minnesota, school district's director of curriculum and instruction, when he pulled "Huck Finn" from required reading last year.

Cary told the Duluth News Tribune of the decision, "We felt that we could still teach the same standards and expectations through other novels that didn't require students to feel humiliated or marginalized by the use of racial slurs."

The Washington Post noted that the novel hit the American Library Association's list of 100 most frequently challenged books in 2015, after "a group of students in Montgomery County in Pennsylvania said its use of the N-word made them uncomfortable."

Others argue, that's the point of including such works in the reading curricula for U.S. students.

The National Coalition Against Censorship said of the Duluth ban, "While it is understandable that a novel that repeatedly uses a highly offensive racial slur would generate discomfort among some parents and students, the problems of living in a society where racial tensions persist will not be resolved by banishing literary classics from the classroom."

"On the contrary," the group added, "the classroom is where the history, use and destructiveness of this language should be examined and discussed."

Anything else?

While the work has long been hailed as a literary masterpiece, it has also been considered controversial ever since it was first published. The story is about the journey of Huckleberry — called "Huck" by his friends — a 13(ish)-year-old white boy who befriends Jim, a runaway slave. The two travel down the Mississippi River on a raft, and Huck narrates what they encounter along the way.

Politico's Matt Friedman wrote, "Though filled with what many academics see as anti-racist and anti-slavery themes, 'Huckleberry Finn' presents an unvarnished depiction of the antebellum South and includes use of the N-word more than 200 times."

According to an article published by the History Channel, several libraries banned "Huckleberry Finn" within months of its publication in the U.S., and the book has faced bans ever since "despite the fact that it was seen by many as a strong criticism of racism and slavery."

One last thing…
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