Mark Twain & Martin Luther King, Jr.

07 Jan

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


2 responses to “Mark Twain & Martin Luther King, Jr.

  1. Nick

    January 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    This is all about limiting Free Speech. After all, censorship is everywhere. The gov’t (and their big business cronies) censor free speech, shut down dissent and ban the book “America Deceived II.” Free speech for all, especially Mark Twain.
    Last link (before Google Books bans it also]:

    • thekingoftexas

      January 8, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      Well said, except for one point—you say The gov’t (and their big business cronies) censor free speech, etc., etc., but you do not specify whether that government to which you refer is liberal or conservative. When you use the term big business cronies, I presume that you mean liberals—not that they don’t have cronies in big business—they just don’t like to admit it because it conflicts with their agenda. Conservatives however, as defined by the liberals, try never to be caught in bed with anyone or anything other than big business.

      I am not aware that conservatives are terribly upset with the word as spelled in the original writing of Huckleberry Finn, nor am I upset with it. The work of Mark Twain should stand as written, as should all other written material. Let those that want THE WORD replaced in literature turn their attention to the collected works of rappers—now there’s a worthwhile project!

      If my statement that I do not agree with the change appears garbled, it’s because I am writing with tongue-in-cheek, and if my tongue-in-cheekness isn’t clear in the narrative, this reply to your comment should make it clear.

      Your comment is obviously spam, and I rarely respond to such comments. I have made an exception in this instance because your comment stands as a complement to my posting. Thanks for visiting my site, whatever the reason. No, the word complement is not misspelled—check it out online if you like.


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