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Kevin Mac Donnell <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 13 Feb 2018 10:56:27 -0600
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Toni Morrison said something very similar, which I quote in an essay I wrote 
on reader responses to HF for Kent Rasmussen's recently published HF 
Critical Insights. I reviewed responses from 19th, 20th, and 21st century 
readers, breaking it all down by readership and looking at what little boys 
had to say versus little girls, academics, general readers, book reviewers, 
fellow authors, etc. I've copied and pasted in the relevant section of my 
essay below and hope it survives intact. There are quite a few quotation 
marks that will trigger a lot of pesky coding:

Twentieth Century African American Readers

Black writers’ reactions to the story have been just as varied. Ralph 
Ellison echoed Booker T. Washington in 1953, when he wrote that Mark Twain 
“does not idealize the slave, Jim. Jim is drawn in all his ignorance and 
superstition, with his good traits and his bad” (Fishkin 259). In 1982 
Ellison still saw Huckleberry Finn as a “fictional vision of an ideal 
democracy in which the actual combines with the ideal . . . in which the 
highly placed and the lowly, the black and the white . . . combine to tell 
us of transcendent truth and possibility such as those discovered when Mark 
Twain set Huck and Jim afloat on the raft” (Fishkin 6). Neither Washington 
nor Ellison discusses the repeated presence of the word “nigger” in the 
text. Not so with humorist and social activist Dick Gregory, who embraced 
the word when he used it for the title of his autobiography in 1964. Says 
Gregory, “Titling my book Nigger meant I was taking it back from white 
folks. Mark Twain threw it up in the air and I grabbed it” (Fishkin 448).
Fairfax County school administrator John H. Wallace generated widespread 
media attention when he produced a heavily sanitized edition of Huckleberry 
Finn in 1983 that removed the words “nigger” and “hell” from the text, as 
well as entire passages, rendering parts of the story absurd. Although he 
acknowledged Mark Twain’s intended satire, he still saw the book as damaging 
to young black readers. Law professor Sharon E. Rush, provoked by the pain 
her young daughter felt when forced to read the book as part of her school 
curriculum, wrote Huck Finn’s “Hidden” Lessons (2006), thoughtfully 
explaining why she felt the book was racist and advocating that it be 
removed from required curricula and taught instead as an “anticanonical text 
in American literature” that demonstrates the “limits of whites’ goodwill 
toward blacks and other people of color” (Rush 149).
Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison’s reaction to her first reading of 
Huckleberry Finn was similar to that of Sharon Rush’s daughter, but she has 
come to view the removal of the book from schools as a “purist yet 
elementary kind of censorship designed to appease adults rather than educate 
children” (Fishkin 409). She does not dismiss the evasion chapters or 
protest the use of the word “nigger,” and focuses instead on the 
relationship of Huck and Jim, and notions of fatherhood and childhood. She 
also suggests that the book is “classic literature” whose “argument at the 
core” cannot be dismissed (Morrison Introduction xxxi-xli). What is that 
core? She wisely observes that
if we supplement our reading of Huckleberry Finn, expand it—release it from 
its clutch of sentimental nostrums about lighting out to the territory, 
river gods, and the fundamental innocence of Americanness—to incorporate its 
contestatory, combative critique of antebellum America, it seems to be 
another, fuller novel. It becomes a more beautifully complicated work that 
sheds much light on some of the problems it has accumulated through 
traditional readings too shy to linger over the implications of the 
Africanist presence at its center (Morrison 54).

Mac Donnell Rare Books
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Austin TX 78730
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-----Original Message----- 
From: Barbara Schmidt
Sent: Monday, February 12, 2018 8:50 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: 'Hurtful' Harper Lee and Mark Twain dropped from Minnesota 

Every time I read about one of these "banning" controversies, I am reminded
of Jocelyn Chadwick's excellent essay in _Critical Insights: Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn_  (Salem Press, 2017). Chadwick decries such efforts which
are undertaken for "children who somehow require the aid of benevolent
white and black critics to think and reflect for them."   Chadwick further
states, "Today's students are proving more than capable of having these
hard conversations; indeed, they flourish in them because they want to
think and break apart and analyze and understand."  A highly recommended
essay from an outstanding Mark Twain scholar for any school board wrestling
with such issues.