Most people don't realize the character named Jim in Huckleberry Finn is based on a real person.
But a new museum in Hannibal is giving visitors and residents the chance to learn more about Jim, the man who inspired him and the forgotten history of Hannibal's African American community.
At one time a sign was the only public marker commemorating the character of Jim in Mark Twain's book "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn".
Huck Finn Freedom Center Jim's Journey
just recently opened in Hannibal.
Faye Dant the director of the Hannibal African American Life and History Project says that visitors will be surprised to learn that Twain's portrayal of Jim in the book was groundbreaking for the time.
"He was the first, first white author to give a slave a name, a family, make that slave something other than an object." Dant said.
Jim was actually inspired by a real man that Mark Twain knew named Daniel Quarels who eventually moved his family to Hannibal to live.
The museum is also a treasure trove of little known facts about the lives of Hannibal's African American community.
Faye Dant says one of the prize finds at the museum is copy of colored directory that dates back to the 1920s.
"This is a wonderful find of ours it is the 1927 Colored Directory. We are particularity pleased about it because it not only identified the African Americans who lived and worked in Hannibal at this time but it also shows a number of black businesses that were here, the african american undertaker, the grocery stores, the churches the schools," Dant said.
Gail Byrant the executive director of the
Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau
is glad to see the addition of the new museum.
"It's an opportunity for the visitors to stay longer in Hannibal. But it also brings light to that part of our history." Bryant said.
For Faye Dant the museum is a labor of love that she hopes will teach and inform visitors for many years to come.
Faye Dant hopes to one day open a much larger Freedom Center, incorporating Jewish and other cultural histories of the community.
The current museum is located at 509 N. 3rd Street next to the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau building.