by Faye Dant
Ever wondered about Jim from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Ever wondered about his wife, Sadie Watson, and children, Elizabeth and Johnny? A new museum in Hannibal, The Huck Finn Freedom Center: Jim’s Journey, located at 509 N. 3rd Street (right next to the Hannibal Visitors and Convention Bureau) documents the life of Daniel Quarles (Jim), Mark Twain’s famous slave character, and portrays how he and African Americans lived as slaves and as a free people after emancipation in 19th century Hannibal.
Hannibal has long been home to everything Twain, real and fictional–Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home and Museum, the Tom and Huck Statue, the Becky Thatcher House, the Huck Finn Home, the Mark Twain Cave and the Injun Joe Campground–but there’s been no memorial to Jim until now. As literary experts are taking another look at the portrayal of African Americans in the works of Mark Twain, they are discovering how he used satire and humor to create characters of dignity, intellect, and inspiration. You will learn why Samuel Clemens, the humanitarian, has been referred to as the “Lincoln of our Literature” (William Dean Howells). Jim, in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is the first African American character in fiction written by a white person to be portrayed as a full-fledged human being, no longer a fixture but a man, a husband, a father, not invisible.
The center opened June 19 and will be open through October 31 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and by appointment. A special Grand Opening of the Huck Finn Freedom Center: Jim’s Journey will be held from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm on September 21. For more information call 217-617-1507.