EUGENE, Ore. - A University of Oregon professor appeared on "60 Minutes" Sunday as the news magazine explored the controversy over a new edition of "Huckleberry Finn" that substitutes "slave" for the N-word.
David Bradley, associated professor of fiction at the UO, told Byron Pitts that removing the N-word from “Huckleberry Finn” deprives students of the “teachable moment” its presence in the novel creates.
“You use the term ‘teachable moment’ and that’s what n*&^%$ gives you. That’s why it’s important to keep it in there,” says the author and Mark Twain scholar. “I call “Huckleberry Finn” a power tool when it comes to education,” says Bradley. “There are so many things [in it] that pry things open…That teachable moment is when that word hits the table in a classroom. Everybody goes ‘wooh’ Okay, let’s talk about it.”
But retaining it deprives others of experiencing the novel in school at all, said Randall Williams, co-owner and editor of NewSouth Books, republished “Huckleberry Finn” with "slave" replacing over 200 appearances of the N-word.
“It’s not ‘Huckleberry Finn” anymore,’” counters Bradley. “What are we teaching them [by removing the N-word]? This may be their first encounter with slavery.” He says that to withhold the N-word is to avoid an integral reality. “‘Slave’ is a condition…nothing for anybody to be ashamed of,” says Bradley, “But n*&^%$ has to do with shame…calling somebody something. N*&^%$ is what made slavery possible.”
Watch the story | Full disclosure: The N-word is used repeatedly in the story