Revised "Huckleberry Finn" Sparks Debate

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NBC Nightly News
Brian Williams/Mike Taibbi
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Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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A debate about political correctness arises over a scholar's plan to release a new version of Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" that takes out the "n" word in order to make the frequently banned book more available to students.



"Revised "Huckleberry Finn" Sparks Debate." Mike Taibbi, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 5 Jan. 2011. NBC Learn. Web. 11 January 2020.


Taibbi, M. (Reporter), & Williams, B. (Anchor). (2011, January 5). Revised "Huckleberry Finn" Sparks Debate. [Television series episode]. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved from


"Revised "Huckleberry Finn" Sparks Debate" NBC Nightly News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 01/05/2011. Accessed Sat Jan 11 2020 from NBC Learn:


Revised "Huckleberry Finn" Sparks Debate

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (Washington, DC):

As you may have heard, there's a big debate over an American classic that had been required reading for generations of American students, Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." And now there's a new version that leaves out one particular word that is used more than 200 times in the original work. NBC's Mike Taibbi has more on the controversial editing of this American masterpiece.

MIKE TAIBBI reporting:

It's the rich tale of the adventures and friendship shared by two characters, one white and one black, in the pre-Civil War South. But because they use the N word, the "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and companion stories of "Tom Sawyer" have often made the American Library Association's lists of the most frequently banned American classics, alongside "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Of Mice and Men." Now Auburn English professor Alan Gribben, a Twain scholar, is releasing a new version of "Huck Finn" with the N word replaced 218 times with the word "slave."

Professor ALAN GRIBBEN: As things stand now, many students do not read any Mark Twain in their public school education, and this book might rectify that.

(Clip from "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," Walt Disney)

TAIBBI: Hollywood has offered sanitized versions of "Huck Finn"'s story, and Gribben's version of the book has drawn support.

Unidentified Woman: I think the likelihood of teachers using it in a classroom might be enhanced, given that that particular word is out.

TAIBBI: But Princeton Professor Melissa Harris-Perry said on MSNBC's "Countdown" that the original book, with that toxic word intact, should be studied for the lessons Twain intended.

Professor MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY ("The Nation" Magazine): (From

"Countdown") There can be camaraderie without equality, that there are these challenging relationships. That's just what the book is asking us to do the work of thinking about.

TAIBBI: Some opponents of political correctness applaud the idea of making Twain's masterpiece more widely available, but say altering the text isn't the way to do it. William McGowan, author of "Coloring the News," says pressuring the book banners makes more sense.

Mr. WILLIAM McGOWAN: How are we going to have a candid and open discussion about race if you can't read books that have the words that reflect the antagonism?

TAIBBI: Questions under debate once again as Huck and Jim travel our way one more time. Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York.