On Monday April 6th, Kelly Driscoll, associate professor of English at St. Joseph College in Hartford, Connecticut, gave a lecture as part of the Mark Twain Lecture series in the Blackistone Room of Anne Arundel Hall. The talk lasted for about an hour, and nearly forty students and faculty members showed up to hear Driscoll’s lecture, which was full of little known facts about Twain.
The talk focused on the life and writings of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also known as Mark Twain, American author and humorist. Driscoll brought to the podium her extensive research and her theory on Clemens’ deep-seated hate for the Native American’s. Driscoll began by speaking of just how timeless the 19th century writers work can be, relating some of his pieces to the recession that America faces today and then she quickly got down to business by bringing to light work of Twain’s which outlines his racism towards the Native Americans.
The first piece of literature Driscoll referenced was a short excerpt from “Innocents Abroad,” the best selling work of Twain during his lifetime, published in 1869. The excerpt served as merely an introduction into Driscoll’s lens on Mark Twain, as he himself spoke of being what he would later call a “savage.” Along with an illustration of Clemens in Native American clothing were several other passages that Driscoll brought to the lecture which included “The Noble Red Man” written in 1870, and “Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims,” an address at the first annual dinner of the New England Society in Philadelphia.
There was also a letter written by Clemens to President Grover Cleveland in protest of Cleveland’s efforts seeking to assimilate Native Americans into white society by means of education, private land ownership, and parental guidance from the federal government.
With these and other resources on the topic of Twain’s Indian Hating, which she will be addressing in her book, due out later this year, Driscoll astounded many students and faculty members alike with just how racist Samuel Clemens was towards Native Americans. After the lecture there was a brief question and answer period headed by Professor Benjamin Click himself, the director of the Mark Twain Lecture Series on American Humor and Culture. During the sessions students and faculty members got the chance to ask Driscoll more about her theory on the metaphysics and psychology of the stark racism that Samuel Clemens displayed in his life.
The lecture, to say the least, left students both surprised and enlightened even though a lot of the audience members were students of Dr. Benjamin Click and enrolled in his various Twain-related classes. First-year Michelle Sultzman, who has attended previous lectures in the Mark Twain Lecture Series, said the entire speech “was very interesting” even though she’s had classes before where she has learned about Mark Twain’s life. Senior Lael Neale also enjoyed it. “I had no idea that Twain had been accused of being biased” against the Native Americans, she said.
“Everyone has this vision of Mark Twain as being this noble guy,” said senior Matthew Decker, the assistant to Click in the Mark Twain Lecture Series on American Humor and Culture. “It’s kind of unnerving to find out his views on other races.”