Movement on to remove "N-word" from Twain novels

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - An Auburn professor's edits to a Mark Twain classic has angered several literary fans. 

Auburn University in Montgomery English professor Allen Gribben has edited Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer" to remove all references to the n-word. In the edited versions, Gribben replaces the derogatory word, which appears more than 200 times in Huck Finn alone, with the word "slave."

The head of the Birmingham Public Library admits she is conflicted over the change.

"I understand it is highly controversial and very difficult for people to discover those words and no one wants anyone using those words," Renee Blalock said.

Some agree that those words should be stricken.

"I think it's a good thing because I don't think derogatory remarks should be widespread. I think it should be taken out of literature," Beverly Harris, a Birmingham mother, said.

But others disagreed.

"Mark Twain was a great writer, why change his work now?" Roselind Ammons asked.

"I don't think they should ever alter a writer's work. You don't know when it will end and what will be cutoff," Tom Dunlap said.

Horace Huntley, a retired UAB professor who once headed the school's African American Studies program, is also concerned about the revised works of Twain.

"I think history is about looking at ideas and events in its own historical period," Huntley said.

The new versions of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer are not on the shelves here at the Birmingham Public Library and Dr. Huntley said he hopes they do not come here. He believes those old books can provide a lesson to folks today.

"This is a lesson for us. I believe we need to teach our children the meaning of those terms." Huntley said.

The controversy about the revised Twain books also caused a reaction in the world of Twitter, where the phrase "Huckleberry Finn" was one of the trending topics for the day.

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