Searching for Jim: Slavery in Sam Clemens's World - Mark Twain and His Circle Series. (Hardback)
  • Searching for Jim: Slavery in Sam Clemens's World - Mark Twain and His Circle Series. (Hardback)
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Searching for Jim: Slavery in Sam Clemens's World - Mark Twain and His Circle Series. (Hardback)

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£59.50
Hardback 320 Pages / Published: 31/10/2003
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Searching for Jim is the untold story of Sam Clemens and the world of slavery that produced him. Despite Clemens's remarks to the contrary in his autobiography, slavery was very much a part of his life. Dempsey has uncovered a wealth of newspaper accounts and archival material revealing that Clemens's life, from the ages of twelve to seventeen, was intertwined with the lives of the slaves around him. During Sam's earliest years, his father, John Marshall Clemens, had significant interaction with slaves. Newly discovered court records show the senior Clemens in his role as justice of the peace in Hannibal enforcing the slave ordinances. With the death of his father, young Sam was apprenticed to learn the printing and newspaper trade. It was in the newspaper that slaves were bought and sold, masters sought runaways, and life insurance was sold on slaves. Stories the young apprentice typeset helped Clemens learn to write in black dialect, a skill he would use throughout his writing, most notably in Huckleberry Finn. Missourians at that time feared abolitionists across the border in Illinois and Iowa. Slave owners suspected every traveling salesman, itinerant preacher, or immigrant of being an abolition agent sent to steal slaves. This was the world in which Sam Clemens grew up. Dempsey also discusses the stories of Hannibal's slaves: their treatment, condition, and escapes. He uncovers new information about the Underground Railroad, particularly about the role free blacks played in northeast Missouri. Carefully reconstructed from letters, newspaper articles, sermons, speeches, books, and court records, Searching for Jim offers a new perspective on Clemens's writings, especially regarding his use of race in the portrayal of individual characters, their attitudes, and worldviews. This fascinating volume will be valuable to anyone trying to measure the extent to which Clemens transcended the slave culture he lived in during his formative years and the struggles he later faced in dealing with race and guilt. It will forever alter the way we view Sam Clemens, Hannibal, and Mark Twain.

Publisher: University of Missouri Press
ISBN: 9780826214850
Number of pages: 320
Weight: 658 g
Dimensions: 235 x 155 x 31 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

"Relying on primary sources-newspaper accounts, legal documents, 19th-century abolitionist and pro-slavery narratives, Clemens family papers, church and census records-[Dempsey] greatly expands knowledge of the slave culture of Mark Twain's early years. . . . Much of his groundbreaking research . . . will be invaluable for both future biographers and literary critics. . . . Recommended."-"Choice"


"A vigorous new voice has risen in the salons of Mark Twain scholarship, and the conversation may never return to a polite murmur. Terrell Dempsey offers the first forensic account in a century's worth of evasion, apology and sugar-coated revisionism of what it meant to be an African slave in Samuel Clemens's hallowed Hannibal, Missouri, and environs. Using his lawyer's skills at discovering evidence and assembling argument, Dempsey has swept away all the cobwebbed myths, some of them encouraged by Twain himself, of happy slaves and kindly owners in antebellum Missouri. He has replaced them with a scorching witness to the inherent pathology of slaveholding, which reached into Clemens's own family and compromised some of Sam's recall. Dempsey's narrative will unsettle some and provoke dispute by others; but in the high tradition of Shelley Fisher Fishkin, he has restored dignity and meaning to Jim and his nameless, numberless brethren. And he has given us a deeper insight into the moral journey of Mark Twain."-Ron Powers, author of "Dangerous Water: A Biography of the Boy Who Became Mark Twain"


"This remarkable book should be required reading for anyone interested in Twain, and for anyone teaching Twain."-"Mark Twain Forum"


Relying on primary sources newspaper accounts, legal documents, 19th-century abolitionist and pro-slavery narratives, Clemens family papers, church and census records [Dempsey] greatly expands knowledge of the slave culture of Mark Twain s early years. . . . Much of his groundbreaking research . . . will be invaluable for both future biographers and literary critics. . . . Recommended. "Choice""


A vigorous new voice has risen in the salons of Mark Twain scholarship, and the conversation may never return to a polite murmur. Terrell Dempsey offers the first forensic account in a century s worth of evasion, apology and sugar-coated revisionism of what it meant to be an African slave in Samuel Clemens s hallowed Hannibal, Missouri, and environs. Using his lawyer s skills at discovering evidence and assembling argument, Dempsey has swept away all the cobwebbed myths, some of them encouraged by Twain himself, of happy slaves and kindly owners in antebellum Missouri. He has replaced them with a scorching witness to the inherent pathology of slaveholding, which reached into Clemens s own family and compromised some of Sam s recall. Dempsey s narrative will unsettle some and provoke dispute by others; but in the high tradition of Shelley Fisher Fishkin, he has restored dignity and meaning to Jim and his nameless, numberless brethren. And he has given us a deeper insight into the moral journey of Mark Twain. Ron Powers, author of "Dangerous Water: A Biography of the Boy Who Became Mark Twain""


This remarkable book should be required reading for anyone interested in Twain, and for anyone teaching Twain. "Mark Twain Forum""


"Relying on primary sources-newspaper accounts, legal documents, 19th-century abolitionist and pro-slavery narratives, Clemens family papers, church and census records-[Dempsey] greatly expands knowledge of the slave culture of Mark Twain's early years. . . . Much of his groundbreaking research . . . will be invaluable for both future biographers and literary critics. . . . Recommended."-Choice
"A vigorous new voice has risen in the salons of Mark Twain scholarship, and the conversation may never return to a polite murmur. Terrell Dempsey offers the first forensic account in a century's worth of evasion, apology and sugar-coated revisionism of what it meant to be an African slave in Samuel Clemens's hallowed Hannibal, Missouri, and environs. Using his lawyer's skills at discovering evidence and assembling argument, Dempsey has swept away all the cobwebbed myths, some of them encouraged by Twain himself, of happy slaves and kindly owners in antebellum Missouri. He has replaced them with a scorching witness to the inherent pathology of slaveholding, which reached into Clemens's own family and compromised some of Sam's recall. Dempsey's narrative will unsettle some and provoke dispute by others; but in the high tradition of Shelley Fisher Fishkin, he has restored dignity and meaning to Jim and his nameless, numberless brethren. And he has given us a deeper insight into the moral journey of Mark Twain."-Ron Powers, author of Dangerous Water: A Biography of the Boy Who Became Mark Twain
"This remarkable book should be required reading for anyone interested in Twain, and for anyone teaching Twain."-Mark Twain Forum

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