A capacity crowd gathered together in the meeting room of the Best Western on the River in downtown Hannibal Saturday afternoon in order to celebrate the grand opening of the Huck Finn Freedom Center, Jim's Journey, which is located at 509 N. Third St.
Keynote speaker was Larry W. McCarty, who explained his lineage to John Quarles' slave, Daniel, and how his family follows their ancestor's motto: "All you need to learn is a stump and a book."
Dignitaries attending from a distance included Dr. Shelley Fisher Fishkin,professor of English and Director of American Studies at Stanford University; Howard Orlando Robinson, state command sergeant major for the Illinois National Guard; Bob Lamb, Ph.D., American Civilization, professor at Purdue University, and Brigadier Gen. Donald Scott, (Ret.) of Kansas City.
Fay Dant, who serves on the Missouri Humanities Board, spearheaded the creation of the museum. Housed at first within the confines of the Hannibal Museum, operated by Ken and Lisa Marks, the Huck Finn Center has now spun off into an entity of its own in the historic stone house across from the former Hannibal bridge approach.
Donald Scott, in praising Fay Dant's work of taking this museum from concept to fruition, said "she dug into what made Hannibal historic. In his writing, particularly in Huck Finn, the character Twain used as Jim was a real life person. Twain used the story to tell of the relationship between whiteS and blacks.
"This museum serves as a useful dialog - to help bring understanding, where we can take community relationships to where we haven't been before," Scott said. "How can we improve relationships between European Americans and African Americans?"
Fay Dant, in welcoming the guests, sang Mark Twain's praises for bringing the race issue into literature. She wants the public to realize that Twain made great strides in explaining the American climate that tolerated slavery.
Twain is more than "someone who used the "N" word more than 200 times in his book," she said.