Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African-American Voices

By Shelley Fisher Fishkin | Go to book overview

8

You may be a white man, white as the drifting snow

Writings left unpublished at his death, and which, for the most part, remain unpublished to this day, suggest that during the years that followed the publication of Huckleberry Finn Twain sporadically continued to question his culture's rigid racial divisions and hierarchies. Those were not auspicious times, however, to voice such challenges.

In the early 1890s, Dr. Eugene Rollin Corson, an erudite Savannah physician, claimed to have "proven," with the help of elaborate data and statistics, his assertion that African Americans "lacked the intelligence to care for themselves properly." Denied the benevolent control of slaveholders, they "quickly reverted to savagery" and were "destined to disappear, a victim of 'the struggle for existence against a superior race.' " 1

In an enormously influential book entitled Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro, published in 1896, a German-born insurance statistician named Frederick L. Hoffman declared that racial characteristics "lie at the root of all social difficulties and problems." "Inferior organisms and constitutional weaknesses," Hoffman believed, were among "the most pronounced race characteristics of the American negro." Religion and education were useless, "because such external influences did not affect basic hereditary characteristics." 2 In this book, which bulges with footnotes and statistical tables,

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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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