Daily Archives: January 7, 2011

Mark Twain & Martin Luther King, Jr.

Because I plan for this post to be e pluribus unum—out of many, one—I will keep it as brief as possible. There are many more brief posts of various subjects to follow, and that is not meant as a threat—it is more of a promise.

Publishers are replacing Mark Twain’s spelling and pronunciation of the dialect version of the word Negro, a word that appears some 217 times as originally spelled by Twain and pronounced in the local dialect by the protagonist and lesser characters in Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn, with the more politically correct term of slave. Twain spelled the word with a lower case n, replaced the e with an i, added a g and an e and dropped the o ending. Click here for a Britisher’s take on the changes to the novel Huckleberry Finn.

So be it—the word does not offend me, and I do not agree with the change, but if it is to be done I propose in that same vein that all publications that feature Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famed I Have a Dream speech replace the term Negro with the more politically correct term African-American. I feel certain that Reverend King, looking down on us and listening to us, will appreciate the change, just as Mark Twain probably—nay, undoubtedly—will appreciate the changes to his work entitled Huckleberry Finn, whether looking down on us  or looking up at us.

The politically incorrect word Negro appears in Reverend King’s speech at least thirteen times. That word should be redacted and replaced by the term African-American. It does not offend me, but I am white—I mean, I am an Anglo-American. However, I can understand how painful it might be for an African-American reader, one steeped in the notion that he is one of an oppressed group and therefore denied any chance of realizing the American dream, to be  forced to read and pronounce that word so many times in Twain’s novel, and to read and hear Reverend King’s speech under the same conditions.

If you would like to verify the number of times the term Negro appears in the reverend’s speech, you can click here and count them for yourself. I’m sure you’ll agree that the changes should be made, just as necessary and as justifiable as were the changes made in Mark Twain’s work.

Some will probably say that when the reverend made his historic speech, the word Negro was favored at that time, even though mispronounced by many people, particularly by those residing in areas below the Mason-Dixon line. The only rebuttal to that is that the word as presented in Twain’s novel was also favored in that area and in that era—in fine, what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


Posted by on January 7, 2011 in Uncategorized