Mark Twain and African Americans

This page, which is part of the website for the Huck Finn Freedom Center in Hannibal, Missouri, includes a number of links that explore the real-life relationships Twain had with African Americans, all of whom contributed to his understanding that “civilization began when slavery was abolished.” The page also links to another page that collects many quotes from prominent African American writers on Twain and his work.

Anthony DePalma, “ A Scholar Finds Huck Finn's Voice in Twain's Writing About a Black Youth,” New York Times, July 7, 1992

In this essay, originally published in 1992, Anthony DePalma writes about the scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin, who links the voice that Twain gives Huck to a 10-year-old black servant the author met just prior to writing the book. DePalma discusses how this finding about the African American roots of an iconic white character may transform how we think about Twain and his masterpiece.

Maria Konnikova, “ Is Huckleberry Finn’s Ending Really Lacking? Scientific American , October 5, 2012

In this essay, author Maria Konnikova takes a psychological approach to reading the last chapter of Twain’s novel. Konnikova begins by gesturing to literary critics’ complaints that Huck simply reverts to his old self once the matter of Jim’s freedom has been settled. Instead of judging the aesthetic merits of this ending, Konnikova asks whether or not Huck’s regression is psychologically realistic.

Ferde Grofé, Mississippi Suite (A Tone Journey), “ II. Huckleberry Finn

Ferde Grofé’s 1925 orchestral suite was inspired by scenes from a journey down the Mississippi River, from its headwaters in Minnesota all the way to New Orleans. The second movement, entitled “Huckleberry Finn,” offers a meditation on Huck’s youthful exuberance and adventurousness.

Celia Belmonte, “ Regionalism and Realism in 19th Century American Literature ,” Lehigh Student Award Winners University Journal, 2010

This short essay provides a useful overview of literary regionalism and realism as they developed in nineteenth century America. The essay also does an excellent job of contextualizing Huckleberry Finn in these closely related literary modes, which helps modern readers understand Twain’s masterpiece more fully.

19th Century Reforms: Crash Course US History 

This video offers a brief history of nineteenth century reform movements, including abolitionism. It covers religious, economic, and social reform movements, all of which influenced American writers in the nineteenth century and beyond.