In early February, students at Princeton University protested when a professor used the N-word in a class about hate speech. He ended up canceling the course. It’s hardly the first time this epithet has sparked a debate over racial sensitivity and freedom of speech, including last semester at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts
One Smith historian, who has a personal connection to the N-word, wants to help teachers address it better.
“There’s all kinds of other words that mean ‘black’ and that maybe aren’t even nice words, like ‘pickaninny.’ But I can say that right now,” said history professor Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor. “But I’m not going to repeat the N-word. So what …is rooted in the specific history of this specific word, and the racial violence around this specific word, that makes it so powerful?”