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Mark Twain's Views on Racism

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Gwyneth McDonald

on 8 April 2013

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Transcript of Mark Twain's Views on Racism

Influences on Mark Twain Because of the confederate influence he had on him as a child, he grew up believing that slavery was fair and normal. (MT's Books) Childhood Born in Missouri which is a slave state
His family members owned slaves (Black + white)
In the south, where he grew up, "Slavery was taken for granted by most whites, defended by all public institutions, including the churches, and attacked out loud by no one," (MT's Books).
As a child he was racist but only because that is how he was raised

http://dig.lib.niu.edu/twain/video.html Though his views went back and forth throughout his life, Mark Twain challenged the ideas of race in his writing
In most of his work he explores racism Twain gives back Lets not get confused:
TWAIN IS NOT A RACIST! It is not Twain who is being using racist terms in his book, it is the boy, Huck, in the novel who's character Twain is trying to develop. His views on Racism Mark Twain Fun Fact Twain fought for the confederates during the civil war
However, he did not like the idea of war
May be because he accidently killed a fellow soldier that he mistook for the enemy
He resigned his commission after two weeks of service
In The Private History of a Campaign that Failed, Twain admits that "he knocked about from one position on the war to another" (Black and White
Later on though, as his career as a writer began to take off, he got married to a woman who's family were active abolitionists.
Though Slavery in the U.S. had been abolished by the time the two got married, The Langdon's, his wife's family, had a more antislavery influence on Twain than what he had been taught when he was a child (MT's Books) Exploring Race in his literature Pudd'nhead Wilson In this book, Twain poses the
question of whether black people
and white people are
different from each other other than in skin color. (Carter)
Huck Finn Profoundly antislavery
However, some people felt that Twain was being racist in the book because he uses the term "nigger". (Carter) http://twain.lib.virginia.edu/wilson/slavery/hfslav4.html http://twain.lib.virginia.edu/wilson/slavery/pwpg237.html http://twain.lib.virginia.edu/wilson/slavery/hfslav7.html http://twain.lib.virginia.edu/wilson/slavery/pwpg230.html The basic plot to the story is that a slave who gave birth to her master's baby has switched her baby for her masters wife's baby. She does this so that the masters baby will be sold and her baby will be raised by her master.

The answer given in this book is that there is no true difference between the two races because as Stephen Carter explains, the point of the novel is hard to miss: "nurture, not nature, was the key to social status." (Carter)
What Carter means is that Twain believed, whether an individual is black or white, it is how they are treated that will make them who they are. (Carter) "The Private History of a Campaign that Failed"
The Century Magazine, December 1885 In 1957, the national Association for the Advancement of colored people felt that the book was offensive and school children should not have to read it because of the racist terms Twain uses in his writing. (Marx)
Fact: Mark Twain owned the Buffalo Express and was also an editor for the company.
While he was in this position, in 1869, he wrote and printed an unsigned editorial that protested against the recent lynching of a black man that had occurred in Memphis (MT's Books) In 1881, he wrote a letter to president Garfield in order to try and help Frederick Douglas (MT's Books) A Yale Literary Scholar named Fisher Fishkin brought to the people's attention that in a letter written in 1885, Twain offered financial support for a black Yale law student. (Marx) -This letter relieved Twain's true views on race.
-He wrote, "we have ground the manhood out of... (black men) and the shame is ours, not theirs; and we should pay for it."
-Fishkin states that the letter shows "the personal anguish that Twain felt regarding the destructive legacy of slavery." (Marx) One argument made by people who fully support Mark Twain's novel, Huckleberry Finn, say that a man who would pay for a black man's education and feels that slavery should never have been okay, could not possibly have written a racially offensive novel. (Marx) Huck is socially unstable, his father is a drunk, he does not have a mother figure, and he does not have any positive influence from family, church, or school.
The term "nigger" is only used in this novel because the story is in the first person point of view of a boy who is not very civilized and also grew up in a time period when these racially offensive terms were accepted
He used these terms in order to further show Huck's character (Marx) The black character, Jim, who is an escaped slave is sympathetic, loving, and acts like a saint.
Mark Twain most definitely wants the reader to admire Jim
This furthur shows how Twain thought of blacks (Marx) Works Cited "Illustrating "Slavery" in MT's Books." Illustrating "Slavery" in MT's Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. Carter, Stephen L. "Getting Past Black and White." Time. Time, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. Budd, Louis J. "Afterword: Mark Twain and the sense of racism." Prospects 25 (2000): 151+. General OneFile. Web. 26 Mar. 2013. Gwyneth McDonald
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