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Tackling The N-Word On Campus, After Her Famous Father Used It On Stage

Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor, Associate Professor of History at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Photo courtesy Smith College.

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?”

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