Mark Twain is most commonly remembered as the author of "Tom Sawyer" and the "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." He may also be remembered as the man who was born on the day that Halley's comet came in 1835, and died on the day that it appeared again in 1910. Besides these two facts, however, when the name Mark Twain is mentioned, a common question comes to mind: was he a racist?.
Mark Twain's early life seemed to be an ideal breeding ground for a racist. Twain grew up in the slave state of Missouri, with a father who was a slave trader several times. When his father died, Twain spent several summers with his uncle. Because his uncle owned twenty slaves, Twain now had a first-hand view of slavery in action. .
The early racism in his life stemmed from the financial troubles of growing up in a poor Southern family. Twain became very aware of differences in social class during his poverty as a youth. However, he was deeply affected when he witnessed the brutal murder of a slave in Hannibal. The black man was killed with a rock thrown by a white man because he was said to be "doing something awkward." (Smith).
A review of Twain's Civil War record also "sheds some light on his Southern feelings about defending slavery and toward what he called the white "tainted aristocracy"." (Smith) In 1877, at a banquet honoring Union veterans, Twain asked this question: "What was the fighting all about, anyhow?".
This hardly seems the war cry of a die hard Southerner,.
but rather the feelings of a desouthernized Southerner.
Twain's feelings about freedmen in his later years were .
filled with humanism and contempt for people who mis-.
treated them. In 1901 he was horrified to hear about .
lynchings in the South and even in his home state of .
Twain, determined to do something about it, decided to write a magazine article condemning the practice. This article begged compassionate missionaries to "leave China, come home, and convert these Christians"(Smith).