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Lighting Out for the TerritoryReflections on Mark Twain and American Culture$
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Shelley Fisher Fishkin

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780195121223

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195121223.001.0001

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(p.70) (p.71) Excavations
Lighting Out for the Territory

Shelley Fisher Fishkin

Oxford University Press

The chapter recounts Mark Twain's lifelong battle with the ghost of slavery, racism, and his efforts, through his writings, to make his fellow citizens aware of and perhaps change their attitudes on the social blight. The chapter begins with the case of one Johnson Whittaker, the first black to enter Westpoint, who was subsequently expelled through racist acts in the late 19th century. This event helped shape Mark Twain from being ordinary Samuel Clemens of Hannibal to the insightful, socially-responsible author that he became. The chapter then traces the roots of and factors affecting this gradual transformation, including references to courageous former slaves whose stories further fueled Twain's burgeoning outrage for racism. In the last few sections, the chapter then juxtaposes Twain's social awakening to the experiences of her modern-day students, which serves to introduce the main topic of the following chapter.

Keywords:   Mark Twain, Johnson Whittaker, Samuel Clemens, Hannibal, Westpoint, racism, students

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