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Stephen Railton <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 8 Nov 2004 12:07:04 -0500
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I'm writing in the hopes of getting feedback from the Forum about a new,
big exhibit I'm building for the *Mark Twain In His Times* online
archive.  The goal is to give 21st century users access to what 19th
century readers found in Twain's books on the subject of slavery -- i.e.
the way he wrote about it in his texts, and the way the illustrations of
the first editions depicted it as well.  I know it's a huge subject.  The
exhibit already contains over 130 images -- mostly from Twain's books, but
also from other contemporary representations of slavery -- along with lots
of passages from Twain's writing.  I think I've covered the obvious bases
-- "True Story," "Old Times on the Mississippi," *Tom Sawyer,* *Huck Finn,*
*Conn Yankee,* *Pudd'nhead Wilson* -- but I'm looking for help with two
specific questions: (1) what Twain texts -- i.e. works published in his
time and identified as by "Mark Twain" -- have I left out? and (2) how
fairly or badly have I characterized the texts/illustrations I do include?
This exhibit is still very much in progress (when done, for example, it'll
include an image of the letter on behalf of Frederick Douglass I mention),
and so not yet on line as part of the archive.  You can access it directly
Because it's still in progress, you can rest assured I'm not asking for
help rhetorically.  I really would like your assistance.  I confess I do
have my own "take" on the issue of how Twain's published books represent
slavery -- I think they're much more ambiguous than his private comments
about slavery.  I'll confess too that there's a contemporary agenda behind
the exhibit -- I don't think "we" (the community of people interested in
Twain, and race, and the country, etc) can answer the concerns that have
been raised about what is in Twain's books with the biographical details
about what was probably in Clemens' heart.  But that's one reason I want
your help -- I want to make sure my perspective isn't too narrow, too much
of a distortion of the way his books treat slavery.
I will be really grateful for any suggestions or comments.  Thanks, Steve
Railton, Univ of Virginia