A Pennsylvania high school has removed Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” from its 11th-grade curriculum after complaints from students who said they were made “uncomfortable” by the novel, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Friends’ Central School in Wynnewood, a suburb of Philadelphia, will no longer teach the book in its American literature class, said the Quaker school’s principal, Art Hall.
“We have all come to the conclusion that the community costs of reading this book in 11th grade outweigh the literary benefits,” Hall wrote in a letter to parents of Friends’ Central students.
“Huckleberry Finn,” first published in 1884, is a frequent target of banning attempts, chiefly because of its language, specifically, use of the n-word. The novel made the American Library Assn.'s list of the 10 most challenged books in 2002 and 2007.
Attempts to censor the book are almost as old as the novel itself. “Huckleberry Finn” was banned by Concord, Mass., librarians just months after its American release in 1885; they considered it “not suitable for trash.”
Ironically, early critiques of the novel were aimed at its anti-slavery stance and for its portrayal of a friendship between Jim, an African American escaped slave, and Huck Finn, a white boy. Today, it’s the book’s casual use of the n-word that comes under fire. In 2011, a publisher controversially printed an edition that replaced every use of the “n-word” with “slave” and was roundly criticized for concealing the true cultural context of the book.
“Huckleberry Finn” will stay in Friends’ Central School’s library, and will be replaced in the classroom by “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.”
Hall, the principal, defended his school’s decision to remove the book from its curriculum. “I do not believe that we’re censoring,” he said. “I really do believe that this is an opportunity for the school to step forward and listen to the students.”