Huck Finn: A History of Censorship

March 1885: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was banned by a committee of the Public Library in Concord, Massachusetts. The committee found the book too crude and had it removed from the public bookshelves. Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women) expressed the committee members’ views: “If Mr. Clemens cannot think of something better to tell our pure-minded lads and lasses he had best stop writing for them.”
Twain's response written in his notebook on April 15 1885: “Those idiots in Concord are not a court of last resort, and I am not disturbed by their moral gymnastics. No other book of mine has sold so many copies within two months after issue as this one has done."

1905 Huck is removed from the children’s room of the Brooklyn Public Library because it is a “bad example for ingenuous youth.”

1907 E. L. Pearson, a librarian, complained that Tom and Huck were being “turned out of some library every year. ” Pearson went on to conjure up the attitudes of a censorious children’s librarian: “No, no,” she says, ‘Tom Sawyer, and you, you horrid Huckleberrry Finn, you mustn’t come here. All the boys and girls in here are good and pious; they have clean faces, they go to Sundayschool, and they love it, too. . . . But you—you naughty, bad boys, your faces aren’t washed, and your clothes are all covered with dirt. I do not believe either of you brushed his hair this morning.... As for you, Huckleberry, you haven’t any shoes or stockings at all, and every one knows what your father is.”

huck-finn2.jpg1957 New York City Board of Education takes Huck off the list of approved textbooks for elementary and junior high schools. The book is called “racially offensive” by the NAACP

1976 Huck removed from required reading in Illinois high schools chiefly because of the n-word.

huck_3.jpg2003 - Bloomington, IL A parent attempts to get Huck Finn removed from the school's required reading list because the subject matter made her daughter feel uncomfortable. She felt, "like every student in the class was looking at her -- the only black student -- each time the word came up. Supporters of the ban also stated that, "children's brains are still in the developmental stages, and book like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn can affect their everyday learning and interaction with the community."


In 2009, just before Barack Obama’s inauguration, a high school teacher named John Foley wrote a guest column in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer in which he asserted that Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men, don’t belong in the curriculum anymore. The time has arrived to update the literature we use in high school classrooms,” he wrote. “Barack Obama is president-elect of the United States, and novels that use the ‘N-word’ repeatedly need to go.”

huck_4.jpg2011 - A new edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has generated much controversy because it will replace the the n-word, which occurs 219 times in the book, with "slave." (The edition also substitutes "Indian" for "injun.") Alan Gribben, an English professor at Auburn University at Montgomery, proposed the idea to the publisher because he believes the pervasive use of that word makes it harder for students to read or absorb the book. In an introduction to the new edition, he wrote, “even at the level of college and graduate school, students are capable of resenting textual encounters with this racial appellative.”