Given the prominence of Huckleberry Finn in the curriculum, the attempt to teach it in a truly anti-racist way marks a starting point, a much needed improvement over business as usual.
Up until that day all of the white students were confident that they would be able to teach Huckleberry Finn in appropriate and sensitive ways; after that day although most of them decided that they would teach the novel, their final projects indicated that they realized it would be a complex task indeed.
Huck was a good person despite what the ending of the book may have appeared him ... has had positive interactions with blacks, and has taken a liking to the slave Jim, who he helped to free, to go with him on his wild adventure.
Yet, considering the objections to Huckleberry Finn only in terms of freedom and censorship doesn¹t resolve potentially divisive situations that can arise in either high school or college settings.
Since no text by a blackor any other minority group member for that matterhas yet to make it to the list of most frequently taught works (according to Applebee¹s research), Huckleberry Finn has a peculiar visibility.
Rhett Jones, an English professor at Rutgers, writes: ³The high adventures of the middle chapters, Huck¹s admiration of Jim, Jim¹s own strong self-confidence, and the slave¹s willingness to protect and guide Huck are all, in some sense, rendered meaningless by the closing chapters, in which Twain turns Jim over to two white boys on a lark² (186).
Every contributor is concerned with the role of Huckleberry Finn in the classroom; most are professors and teachers at leading universities, some have high school experience.
Her position is anticipated in Satire and Evasion by Arnold Rampersand, Professor of English at Princeton, who makes the case that Huck Finn, with its stress on folk culture, on dialect, and on American humor, can be seen to be ³near the fountainhead² for African American writers such as Hughes, Hurston, Ellison, and Walker.
(56) What is above all disturbing about the novel, Morrison argues, is not its portrayal of Jim, ³but what Mark Twain, Huck, and especially Tom need from him.²(57) Rather than merely a white man¹s limited portrait of a slave, the novel demonstrates the inadequacy of Euro-American utopian aspirations; Morrison says Huck Finn ³simulates and describes the parasitic nature of white freedom² (57).
For use with Huck Finn or as part of a unit on slavery the chapters ³Drawing the Color Line,² and ³Slavery without Submission, Emancipation without Freedom² would be essential.