Here we go again: A pair of lawmakers in New Jersey want the state’s schools to stop using the classic Mark Twain novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn“ in their classrooms.
As reported by Politico, although the book contains numerous “anti-racist and anti-slavery themes” it also features over 200 mentions of the N-word. New Jersey State Assembly members Verlina Reynolds-Jackson and Jamel Holley contend the latter “can cause students to feel upset, marginalized or humiliated and can create an uncomfortable atmosphere in the classroom.”
The lawmakers’ non-binding resolution notes various school districts in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Minnesota and Mississippi have ditched the book from their curricula.
“There are other books out there that can teach about character, plot and motive — other ways besides using this particular book for that lesson,” Reynolds-Jackson told Politico.
She noted the catalyst for the measure was a cyber-bullying incident against a black student which featured racist epithets and threats of lynching … but admitted Twain’s novel had nothing to do it.
According to the American Library Association, “Huck Finn” was the 14th most challenged or banned book from 2000-2009.
Top 20 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009
1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16. Forever, by Judy Blume
17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20. King and King, by Linda de Haan
The Assembly resolution by Reynolds-Jackson and Holley states that the book’s inclusion in school curricula “in effect requires adolescents to read and discuss a book containing hurtful, oppressive, and highly offensive languages directed towards African-Americans.”
While the resolution does not state that “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn“ is a racist book, Reynolds-Jackson — who said she read it “many years ago“ — believes it is.
“I think this is a racist book,” she said. “I think in the climate that we’re in right now, where you have a president that is caging up our children and separating us in this way, I think to use this book in this climate is not doing the African-American community any justice at all.”
However, Reynolds-Jackson acknowledged that several teachers she spoke with like teaching the book.
“I think you have to make sure you have a strong instructor to lead that conversation and those technical skills in developing our students,” she said.
Acclaimed (black) author Toni Morrison, who as a child was disturbed by the novel, said that she grew to appreciate the book in “later readings.” She noted that attempts to censor the classic are “a purist yet elementary kind of censorship designed to appease adults rather than educate children.”