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The New York Times, September 12, 1957

'Huck Finn' Barred As Textbook by City


The Board of Education has quietly dropped Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" from the approved textbook lists for the city's elementary and junior high schools.

The book can still be purchased for school libraries, but it can no longer be bought for wide distribution to pupils as a textbook, except in the high schools. Even in these schools, Huck Finn's days may be numbered.

"Huckleberry Finn," which tells the story of boyhood in the Mississippi Valley in the Eighteen Forties, has been criticized by some Negroes as "racially offensive." A central figure n the book, which was written in dialect, is "Miss Watson's big nigger, named Jim."

Miss Ethel Huggard, associate school superintendent in charge of curriculum development, confirmed yesterday that three textbook contracts for the book had not been renewed in the last two years. But she denied that this had anything to do with any objections to the book.

Miss Huggard asserted that the book had not been continued on the approved textbook list because it was felt that it was not really a textbook. She added that pupils who wanted to read it could still obtain copies in the school libraries.

Heard No Objections

The decision not to continue "Huckleberry Finn" on the approved lists, she said, was purely a matter of selection and was without "prejudice to the book." She also said that no objections to the book had come to her attention.

However, an official of one publisher said yesterday he had been informed by school authorities that his company's contract for the book was not being renewed because the work contained "some passages derogatory to Negroes."

The official said that one of the criticisms was that the edition, an adaptation of the original novel, did not capitalize the words "Negro" and "Negroes." He added that the company was bringing out a new version that would meet the criticisms.

The first contract for "Huckleberry Finn" that was not renewed was that of the Giant Publishing Corporation. This expired in 1956. This year, the school system did not renew contracts for the book with the Globe Book Company and Scott, Foresman & Co.

An edition brought out by Harper & Brothers, whose Board of Education contract for the book will not expire until 1959, is still on the approved textbook list for high schools.

A spokesman for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said yesterday that his organization had not protested to the Board of Education about the book, nor did he know of any other organized pressure to have the book dropped from the approved textbook lists. Officials of the Urban League of Greater New York and the Anti-Defamation of B'nai B'rith also were not aware of any organized protest.

However, the N.A.A.C.P. spokesman declared that his group strongly objected to the "racial slurs" and "belittling racial designations" in Mark Twain's works.

Published in 1885, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is regarded as one of Mark Twain's greatest works. It has been translated into many languages and has enjoyed wide popularity throughout the world, including the Soviet Union.

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