Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African-American Voices

By Shelley Fisher Fishkin | Go to book overview

9

The more come in with a free good will, Make the band seem sweeter still.

In his pathbreaking 1970 essay, "What America Would Be Like Without Blacks," Ralph Ellison wrote,

If we can resist for a moment the temptation to view everything having to do with Negro Americans in terms of their racially imposed status, we become aware of the fact that for all the harsh reality of the social and economic injustices visited upon them, these injustices have failed to keep Negroes clear of the cultural mainstream; Negro Americans are in fact one of its major tributaries. 1

One important dimension of the "cultural mainstream" that African Americans have shaped, Ellison noted, is the language. "The Arngican nation," he wrote,

is in a sense the product of the American language, a colloquial speech . . . that began by merging the sounds of many tongues, brought together in the struggle of diverse regions. And whether it is admitted or not, much of the sound of that language is derived from the timbre of the African voice and the listening habits of the African ear. 2

Ellison called "the black man a co-creator of the language that Mark Twain raised to the level of literary eloquence. . . ."3 My research and interpretations clearly support this assertion.

"The spoken idiom of Negro Americans," Ellison declared,

its flexibility, its musicality, its rhythms, freewheeling diction, and Vo metaphors, as projected in Negro American folklore, were absorbed by

-128-

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Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African-American Voices
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents xi
  • Illustrations xiii
  • Introduction 3
  • Part One - Jimmy 11
  • 1 13
  • 2 41
  • Part Two - Jerry 51
  • 3 53
  • 4 68
  • Part Three - Jim 77
  • 5 79
  • 6 93
  • Part Four - Break Dancing in the Drawing Room 109
  • 7 111
  • 8 121
  • 9 128
  • Coda 145
  • Notes 147
  • Works Cited 219
  • Sociable Jimmy 249
  • Index 253
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