I'll leave the details of this to the more learned members of the list,
but I believe charges of racism in "Huckleberry Finn" are unfounded. Huck
confronted the dilemma of viewing Jim either as a friend, or as a piece
of property. He chose the former, despite the fact that he -- and Clemens
-- we're taught the latter from childhood. I believe that this dilemma
describes something of Mark Twain's own inner dialogue, and in HF, we see
the maturing of SLC's later attitudes, and support for his seeking a
government post for Frederick Douglass with James A. Garfield's
administration, and why he served as co-chairman for the 25th anniversary
celebration of the founding of the Tuskegee Institute with Booker T.
I believe it's also important to realize that racism was viewed largely
as a humanitarian, and to a slightly lesser degree, a moral issue 110
years ago. Nowadays it really is more a political issue than it is
anything else. I should make it clear that, personally, I have always
considered race a non-issue, and I refuse to take sides in the debate
on modern race questions -- except to say that Dr. King had it right when he
said a person should be judged by the content of his character rather
than the color of his skin. I beleive that was Clemens's view as well. He
was after all, the one who said, "I do not believe that I have any race
prejudices or caste prejudices. It's enough to know [a person] is a human
being. He can't get any worse." There were other statements he made on
the subject, all of which were at worst neutral on issues of
race, and the vast majority of which were positive.
A deeper examination of Clemens's politics would probably reveal him to
be a liberal democrat with occasional fits of conservatism were he alive
in today's political climate.
Just my $02.
A longtime lurker,
P.S. Greetings to Paul, Kent, Jodee, et al.!