Archive for May, 2011

Alan Gribben talks Twain in Costco Connection, Independent Publisher

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn: The NewSouth Edition

Dr. Alan Gribben, editor of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn: The NewSouth Edition, discussed the new volume this past month with the Costo Connection and Independent Publisher magazines. Each magazine gave Gribben the opportunity to continue to explain his motivation for releasing the edition, which offers replacements for the racial epithets found in the original text.

In the “Informed Debate” section of the May 2011 edition of Costo Connection, the magazine asks, “Should literary classics be sanitized,” noting that “the original version of [these books have] been banned in some schools and libraries … [supporters] say a revised edition maintains the mood, context, and style of the original; allows everyone to enjoy the work; and encourages reading.” Customer Randi Wilkinson writes, “Parents can expose their children to the original edition if they feel the kids are mature enough, or they can read the revised edition now.”

In the Costo Connection, Gribben explains that public schools have been “increasingly reluctant” to assign Twain’s works because of the epithets within, such that many students never encounter Twain at all; “the NewSouth Edition,” Gribben continues, “offers readers a chance to sidestep the “n-word” acrimony that has dominated and distorted public discussions of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn for 40 years [and] focus on deeper messages in these novels: the thrill of adventures that lead to discoveries, the yearning for freedom that makes terrible risks worthwhile and the price of social conformity that blinds people to immoral practices.”

Gribben presents more details in his Independent Publisher column, describing his early statewide speaking tour to tout Twain’s works at Southern schools, and the conversations he had with public school teachers who told him they weren’t allowed to teach Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn because of the epithets. Gribben writes:

It occurred to me that I was equipped by my lifetime of studying and teaching Mark Twain to prepare an edition of Twain’s two novels that could offer teachers and school districts a workable alternative to avoiding the books. After all, I had reconstructed Twain’s library and reading in a 1,000-page catalog, co-edited a collection of his travel writings, and published numerous essays investigating his biography, prose style, and celebrity image. What if I produced an edition of both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn that retained every phrase, sentence, and chapter in them except the offensive racial slurs? …

Although my publishers at NewSouth Books, Randall Williams and Suzanne La Rosa, had expressed initial reservations about whether we would be able to sufficiently alert teachers to the availability of this niche edition, that concern of theirs soon turned out to have been needless, to put it mildly. … The Wall Street Journal reported nearly 60,000 posts about the edition on Twitter and Facebook within a four-day period in January. Debate teams at high schools and colleges eagerly took up its implications. College and local newspapers tussled with the issues involved. … I sensed an enormous disconnect between the university and media intelligentsia and the world of the public school teacher. Early critics of the edition at least took into account my scholarly record and credited me with being “well-intentioned,” but as bloggers fanned the flames with falsehoods the subsequent commentators were not so kind. …

During the weeks preceding the volume’s appearance, media pundits and entertainment personalities on radio and television exaggerated the news to make it seem as though all other existing editions of the two novels would hereafter be abolished. People outside academe wrote to me in consternation, fearful that they would never again be able to read the original versions of Twain’s novels. I referred them to the relevant part of my Introduction citing authoritative editions that do contain the n-word and urging readers to consult them. I had to laugh whenever the professional commentators avoided pronouncing or printing the very word they were mocking me for substituting and that they are expecting public school teachers to read aloud in integrated classrooms. The editors’ newspapers routinely reject letters to the editor that contain the word. Media broadcasters and columnists know that their own jobs would be forfeited if they dared to violate a tacit protocol by uttering or publishing that dreaded word. …

My publishers resolutely refused to halt or postpone the NewSouth Edition in spite of the invectives hurled at them, and more than a month after its issuance the tide began to turn. “60 Minutes” and its CBS television affiliates aired on March 20, 2011 … a probing debate in which one teacher acknowledged the “pain” that the n-word inflicts in high school classrooms. For the most part, hostile commentary about the edition dampened after that. Besides, readers were now able to obtain copies of the book and see for themselves the Introduction and notes. The publisher and I soon received grateful letters of support from classroom teachers who had given up on assigning Huckleberry Finn. “It is a great move on your end,” wrote one high school instructor.

Dr. Alan Gribben’s full column, “Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Go Back to School,” is available from the Independent Publisher website. Read “Informed Debate” from Costo Connection at

Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn: The NewSouth Edition is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Freedom Rides guidebook commemorates 50th anniversary

Friday, May 20th, 2011 by Noelle Matteson

The Freedom Rides and Alabama by Noelle MattesonThe civil rights history of the Freedom Rides has been well documented in a number of fine and award-winning volumes. But until now there has not been a short history on the subject. The Freedom Rides and Alabama by Noelle Matteson, newly published by NewSouth Books, is a much-needed account: a concise guidebook which describes key people, places, and events and which provides historical context for the rides.

It gives special emphasis to the Freedom Riders’ experiences in Montgomery, Alabama, describing the violent white mob that greeted the riders and the ensuing mass meeting at First Baptist Church, where leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Fred Shuttlesworth spoke.

The Freedom Rides and Alabama is published by NewSouth Books on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides and in collaboration with the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC). It is released on the eve of the anniversary events planned by the AHC in connection with the opening of the National Freedom Rides Museum at the historic Greyhound Bus Station site in Montgomery, Alabama on May 20.

To learn more about the Freedom Rides and the museum’s creation, check out Allison Griffin’s article “Freedom Rides: Historic bus station’s transformation into a museum now complete” in the Montgomery Advertiser.

The Freedom Rides and Alabama: A Guide to Key Events and Places, Context, and Impact is available direct from NewSouth Books.

Montgomery Advertiser praises The Tuskegee Airmen, An Illustrated History as “the best”

Monday, May 16th, 2011 by Lisa Harrison

The Tuskegee Airmen, An Illustrated History: 1939-1949 by Joseph Caver, Jerome Ennels and Daniel Haulman

In a glowing article, The Montgomery Advertiser’s Al Benn praises NewSouth Books’ new title The Tuskegee Airmen, An Illustrated History: 1939-1949 as “the best of the batch” of books on the Airmen “because it takes a different approach” to the story of this famed military unit. Benn enthusiastically describes the book as “an encyclopedia crammed with everything you ever wanted to know about the organization” and notes that “the best part is that it is home-grown,” being authored by three historian/archivists from Maxwell Air Force Base, whose access to hundreds of historical documents “helped them to produce a superb 230-page book.”

The Tuskegee Airmen, An Illustrated History: 1939-1949 had its launch party on May 5 at The NewSouth Bookstore on South Court Street in Montgomery. Authors Joseph Caver, Jerome Ennels, and Daniel Haulman were delighted to be joined by Airmen veteran Lt. Col. Herbert Carter, who had been a member of the 99th Fighter Squadron. Lt. Col. Carter is prominently featured in the book. In his Advertiser story, Al Benn identifies Carter’s photos as being among his personal favorites. The veteran pilot delighted guests by signing copies of the book along with the authors.

Authors Joseph Caver (left), Daniel Haulman (top middle) and Jerome Ennels (right) with former Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. (ret.) Herbert Carter (bottom middle).

The Tuskegee Airmen, An Illustrated History: 1939-1949 goes further than previous publications, using captioned photographs–many never published before–to trace the Airmen through their various stages of training, deployment, and combat. It also showcases the work of the Airmen’s diverse ground personnel. The book is the first to contain a detailed chronology of the Airmen’s wartime missions.

Interest in the Airmen continues to grow, with major motion picture due out next year from director George Lucas, and many books on the topic already in existence. The Tuskegee Airmen, An Illustrated History: 1939-1949 stands as the most comprehensive treatment of this distinguished group of pilots and the crews who supported them.

The Tuskegee Airmen, An Illustrated History: 1939-1949 is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite retail or online book seller.

Virginia Pounds Brown wins Alabama Historical Association’s Virginia Van Der Veer Hamilton Award

Thursday, May 12th, 2011 by Sam Robards

The World of the Southern Indians: Tribes, Leaders, and Customs from Prehistoric Times to the Present by Virginia Pounds Brown

NewSouth Books would like to congratulate Virginia Pounds Brown, author of The World of the Southern Indians: Tribes, Leaders, and Customs from Prehistoric Times to the Present, on winning the Alabama Historical Association’s Virginia Van Der Veer Hamilton Award for contributions to Alabama history.

The Virginia Van Der Veer Hamilton Award is given every other year to a distinguished professional whose work encourages “joint historical endeavors and mutual understanding among nonprofessional and professional historians.” Past winners of the award include Ed Bridges, Hardy Jackson and Leah Rawls Atkins.

Brown is former librarian, bookstore owner, and publisher who began writing to fill gaps in the available history of her native Alabama and the surrounding region. NewSouth republished her classic, accessible guide to Southern Native American tribes, The World of the Southern Indians, earlier this year, and will soon re-release the companion volume, Southern Indian Myths and Legends. NewSouth also published her autobiographical Mother & Me: An Intimate Memoir of Her Last Years, and the young adult novel The Gold Disc of Coosa: A Boy of the Mound Builders Meets DeSoto.

It is especially fitting that Brown should win an award named for historian Virginia Hamilton, since NewSouth recently also published Hamilton’s memoir Teddy’s Child: Growing Up in the Anxious Southern Gentry Between the Great Wars. Hamilton became the second woman to earn a PhD from the University of Alabama Department of History and has written numerous award-winning books.

The World of the Southern Indians: Tribes, Leaders, and Customs from Prehistoric Times to the Present, by Virginia Pounds Brown, is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Oprah show spotlights Freedom Riders 50th Anniversary

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

The Wrong Side of Murder Creek by Bob ZellnerThe Oprah show brought together today 179 participants from the 1961 Freedom Rides, in tribute to the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of that movement. In attendance was NewSouth author Bob Zellner, a SNCC field secretary who describes his experience with the Freedom Rides in his memoir The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement.

Participants in the Freedom Rides or related events that spoke to Oprah included Congressman John Lewis, Genevieve Hughes Houghton, Hank Thomas, and Diane Nash. Oprah told how Lewis was “beaten bloody by an angry white man” at a South Carolina bus terminal; that man, Elwin Wilson, later apologized to Lewis, and the two appeared on stage holding hands.

Houghton and Thomas spoke about the Freedom Riders’ arrival in Anniston, Alabama. There, a mob set the Freedom Riders’ bus on fire; Janie Forsyth, a twelve-year-old who tried to help the Riders, described the burning bus as “horrible … like a scene from hell.” The burning of that bus lead the residents of Anniston to form a biracial committee to desegregate the city; Rev. J. Phillips Noble, the first chair of that committee, recounts these events in his memoir Beyond the Burning Bus: The Civil Rights Revolution in a Southern Town.

A few weeks later, the Freedom Riders bus would arrive in Montgomery. In The Wrong Side of Murder Creek, Bob Zellner describes visiting that bus station in the aftermath of the terrible beatings the Riders endured. “Shards of broken glass and pieces of camera littered the street,” Zellner writes, “which looked like it was covered with isolated puddles of glistening red jelly … I remember being shocked when I saw that the burning pile consisted of the Freedom Riders’ busted suitcases, books, note books, and the odd toothbrush or deoderant.”

Zellner would go on to become a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and participating in a number of civil rights protests, including being beaten severely in McComb, Mississippi. His story is also the subject of a new movie, Son of the South, with executive producer Spike Lee, in theaters in 2012.

In the television episode, Oprah called the Freedom Riders “American heroes,” noting that “this country would be a very different place” if not for them. NewSouth is pleased by a number of events taking place to celebrate the Freedom Riders, including a 2011 Freedom Rides student bus tour that will meet with Rev. Noble later in May, and a new PBS documentary about the Freedom Riders airing May 16.

Video from the Oprah Winfrey show episode about the Freedom Riders is available at the website. Rev. Noble’s Beyond the Burning Bus and Bob Zellner’s The Wrong Side of Murder Creek are both available in hardcover and ebook formats from NewSouth Books.