As I got into the car and drove away from Hannibal, another childhood memory returned. It was my father's voice reminding me that "Hannibal is rough on Negroes."" This is a quote by Julius Lester, from his essay Morality and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He is reminded of this particular quote by his father in the year 1973, after having been denied several motel rooms, speculating that the judgment of the motel staff upon his race was the cause of such misfortune, which is likely, given the year (consider that civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated only five years prior) and location.
Lester continues to write a haunting take on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where he describes the nature of the book to be quite morally bankrupt. His opinions are shared by many, specifically the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and many school districts. In his essay "Born to Trouble: One Hundred Years of Huckleberry Finn," Justin Kaplan states, "In 1984, school officials in Waukegan, Illinois, removed Huckleberry Finn from the required reading list after an alderman, according to the Associated Press, objected to the book's use of the word "nigger." He goes on to say that regardless of the blatant use of racial slurs and stereotypical language, "these characters belong to their place and time, which is the Mississippi Valley thirty years before Emancipation."" This statement not only includes the use of the word by African American characters in the book, but it also explains the usage of the word "negroes"" which is no longer an acceptable term for African Americans, by Julius Lester's father from a time just prior to the 1970's, which was during the civil rights movement. Lester's father was speaking from a certain time and place where using the term "negroes"" was a social norm. .
Julius Lester speculates on the competency of Huck Finn as a young boy making assessments of others.