"Twain wrote that Huck was based on Tom Blankenship, a poor white boy he knew in Hannibal, MO. But Shelley Fishkin found an 1874 article where Twain spoke of another boy, ten-year old black servant Jerry. Jerry was "the most artless, sociable and exhaustless talker I ever came across," Twain said. He added, "He did not tell me a single remarkable thing, or one that was worth remembering. And yet he was himself so interested in his small marvels, and they flowed so naturally and comfortably from his lips that . . . I listened as one who receives a revelation."
"It doesn't really matter whether or not Huck was black. Jim, Huck Finn's friend, was certainly black, and he is one of the most memorable characters in literature. Jim was sometimes referred to as "nigger Jim." Jim has a minstrel quality, but it's hard not to see the irony in his behavior, especially not when he lectures Huck on behaving like white trash. Mark Twain's writing and characters have influenced countless American writers. And no matter how many book-banning campaigns are launched due to the presence of the word "nigger" in Twain's books, particularly Huckleberry Finn, authors as diverse as Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner have cited Twain as influences."
-- from Amy Sterling Casil's Introduction
A seminal work of American Literature that still commands deep praise and still elicits controversy, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is essential to the understanding of the American soul. The recent discovery of the first half of Twain's manuscript, long thought lost, made front-page news. And this unprecedented edition, which contains for the first time omitted episodes and other variations present in the first half of the handwritten manuscript, as well as facsimile reproductions of thirty manuscript pages, is indispensable to a full understanding of the novel. The changes, deletions, and additions made in the first half of the manuscript indicate that Mark Twain frequently checked his impulse to write an even darker, more confrontational book than the one he finally published.