In September of 2011, Hannibal’s first African American museum opened, the Hannibal African American Life and History Project. In September of 2013 we celebrated phase two of this project with the unveiling of
Jim’s Journey: the Huck Finn Freedom Center.
Our mission is to build cross-cultural understanding by documenting, preserving and presenting the history of the 19th and 20th-century African American community in Hannibal and northeast Missouri. As we commemorate the once thriving African American community and the people who built it we can’t overlook the pain and suffering of slavery, segregation, and racial oppression. We will highlight the exceptions as well as the ordinary and the richness of the African American culture as we celebrate their contributions.
Jim’s Journey; The Huck Finn Freedom Center honors Daniel Quarles, the prototype for Jim in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. We will also acknowledge Samuel Clemens the humanitarian, and the African Americans he impacted and those who influenced his life and work.
This is an ongoing project. As we grow we hope to have continued community contributions, input and support.
Hannibal African American Life and History Project (HAALHP)
Board of Directors
- G. Faye Dant, Executive Director
- Faye Dant is a fifth-generation African American Hannibalian and descendant of Missouri slave, James Walker. She grew up here in Douglasville and attended local schools including segregated Douglass School, Hannibal High School, and Hannibal LaGrange College. Her life experiences in the era of segregation, integration, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement lead to the creation of Jim’s Journey. She received a B.A. from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan and a master’s degree from the University of Michigan. She has worked for more than thirty years in Human Resources and is married to Hannibal native Joel Dant; together they have three adult children. Some of her board obligations include the Missouri Humanities Council, the Marion County Historical Society, the Grants Panel for the Missouri Folk Arts Council and the NEA, Our Town Grants Panel.
- Donald Scott, Brigadier General (Retired), Chairman
- A former Douglass School student and graduate of Monroe City High School, Donald Scott was born in Hunnewell, Missouri, a descendant of slaves Henry Scott and Henry Dant. Donald Lavern Scott entered the United States Army in 1960 as a Distinguished Military Graduate from Lincoln University (MO) with the rank of Second Lieutenant and retired in 1991 with the rank of Brigadier General. General Scott served as Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer under the late Maynard H. Jackson for the city of Atlanta, GA, founded the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, and served for ten years as the Deputy Librarian and Chief Operating Officer for the Library of Congress. Since retirement from the Library of Congress, General Scott has served on numerous Boards and Committees including the Board of Trustees for the Library of Congress, the American Folklife Center, the Missouri State Parks Foundation, and is a member of the Five Star council of the AFC’s Veterans History Project. Recently published his memoir, Recipient of Grace, available on Amazon.com.
- Lisa Marks, Secretary
- With husband Ken, Lisa Marks is the co-founder and co-curator of the Hannibal History Museum. With her husband she has written three books published by the History Press: Molly Brown from Hannibal, Missouri (2013), Hannibal, Missouri: A Brief History (2011) and Haunted Hannibal: History and Mystery in America’s Hometown (2010). Lisa is also a contributing writer for Hannibal Magazine and Missouri Life magazine. Lisa has been named to the Missouri Arts Council’s Touring Performers roster and the Missouri Humanities Council Speaker’s Bureau with her historically accurate portrayal of Margaret Tobin Brown, “The Life and Times of Molly Brown.” The Marks are on the board of directors of the Marion County Historical Society and members of both Friends of Historic Hannibal and Missouri Historical Society.
- Phil Smith, Treasurer
- A life-long Hannibal resident and graduate of Douglass School and Quincy University, Phil Smith retired from Blessing Hospital in December 2008 from his position as Administrative Director of Ancillary Services after 50 years of service. He is married to Reverend Minnie Smith, pastor of Willow Street Christian Church. Mr. Smith is active in the denomination of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. He serves on numerous committees and as a board moderator at the area, regional, and national levels of the church.
- Jimmy O’Donnell, Owner/Operator of the James O’Donnell Funeral Home
- Mr. O’Donnell’s involvement in numerous charitable and civic organizations provides the HAALHP valuable insight for fundraising projects and efforts to raise awareness and support for the HAALHP throughout the community of Hannibal. He serves on numerous local boards and committees.
Joe and Jane Miller
We want to acknowledge and thank the individuals and organizations who have contributed to the creation of the first memorial to Jim, Huck Finn’s enslaved traveling companion, in Mark Twain’s classic, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. We tell the story of Daniel Quarles, the prototype for Jim, and give visitors new insight into the world of slavery he left behind and the life for African Americans in 19th century Hannibal. Additionally, we recognize Samuel Clemens the humanitarian, who was the first white American author to humanize a slave, making him more than a fixture as he contributed to the fight against racism and bigotry.
We appreciate our partners, those who enable us to tell this story. Their ongoing support is critical to the future of the museum. There are many to thank, but a special thank you goes out to:
- Dr. Shelley Fisher Fishkin, the most significant inspiration for Jim’s Journey. She gave me the best account of what adult Samuel Clemens personally thought of and about slavery and race relations in Lighting Out for the Territory: Reflections on Mark Twain and American Culture (1997), and continued to provide advice and support during the development of the museum and the website. Reading her works helped Faye Dant, the Founder, me see that her sense of being invisible while growing up an African American schoolgirl and adolescent in Hannibal was not her imagination. Thank you, Shelley, for so much more than you will ever know.
- Missouri Humanities Council, for support with grants which went directly to acquisition of artifacts and creation of displays. Geoff Gigliorano, the Executive Director, was an incredible source of knowledge, support and encouragement.
- Silicon Valley Foundation, provided a grant used for the creation of this website and classroom curriculum development project.
- The City of Hannibal, for providing the Old Welshman House at 509 North 3rd Street for the museum.
- The Marion County Historical Society, for generously giving up their space for the Huck Finn Freedom Center; Jim’s Journey.
- The Hannibal History Museum. Executive Directors, Ken and Lisa Marks, for their generosity in providing the initial museum space and their experience, expertise, and passion in helping us reach our goal. Their many acts of kindness can never be repaid.
- FACT (Families and Communities Together) is an organization of community members working together to develop or build stronger, more successful families and children is serving as the fiscal agent in grant writing, and for their ongoing support of community endeavors which continue to strengthen Hannibal.
- Special acknowledgment to Gary Silver, former Director, Northeast Missouri Community Foundation, who believed in the project from the start.
- Betty Forte Scott, Advisory Board member and Hannibal native who generously gave time, money and numerous photographs and artifacts to the museum, including the 1927 Colored Directory.
- Vicki Bynum Andrews and Gregg Andrews, whose acts of generosity went beyond monetary contributions to include books as well as Andrew’s drawing of Samuel Clemens.
- Barry Moser, award-winning artist who generously allowed the use of his engraving of Jim for the website. Barry is one of the foremost wood engravers in the United States and is the proprietor of the Pennyroyal Press. Among other books, he illustrated Huckleberry Finn (California, 1985), Moby Dick (California, 1981), Dante’s Inferno (California 1980), Purgatorio (California, 1981), and Paradiso (California, 1984), and the Holy Bible (1999).
- Nancy Rawles, adviser, award-winning novelist, playwright, and author of My Jim, the story of the bereaved family of Mark Twain’s famous slave character. Also a teacher, Rawles’ latest novel is Miz Sparks Is On Fire And This Ain’t No Drill, a story about some the challenges today’s teachers face.
- Stephanie Thomeczek, Families and Communities Together (F.A.C.T.), who described the group’s role as an organization created to help dreams come true, stepped up more than three years ago and provided free office space which allowed us to hit the ground running.
- Iva’s Printing. Kerry and his wife were very supportive with encouraging comments, generous with advice and service, while embracing our project and expediting the development of our displays.
- Douglass School Reunion Committee. Alumni chairman Joe Miller loaned numerous artifacts, giving us the ability to recreate the story of Douglass School.
- Connie Ritter, Interpretative Research Specialist (Administrator) of the Mark Twain Birthplace Museum in Florida, Missouri, contributed to the history of slavery in the Samuel Clemens family and the Missouri display.
- Steve Chou, collector of everything Hannibal, primarily photographs, and author of two books, a collection of his vintage Hannibal photographs and Hannibal Missouri: Bluff City Memories. Mr. Chou has generously researched and provided digitized copies of photographs relevant to this story.
- Alisha M. Cole is the principal of Arcadia Consulting and previously served as curator of several museums and historical sites in the region. She consults extensively for the Missouri Humanities Council and generously gave of her time and expertise to the success of this project.
- Terrell Dempsey, adviser and author of Searching for Jim (2003), the best account of slavery in Sam Clemens’ Hannibal.
- Mary Lou Montgomery, Hannibal Courier-Post editor, who willingly publicized our events and encouraged the community to support our efforts.
- Dr. Pierre Gilles and wife Debra, for providing website advice, financial support, and museum beautification expertise.
In closing, we must thank all of you who were so generous with your artifacts, yearbooks, family photos, time and money– too many to name, but you know who you are. This ongoing support was and is so necessary to the future of the museum. Finally, our appreciation goes out to the African American community including Joel Dant, family, extended family, and friends who believed in our mission. Every penny, every positive comment, every ounce of support is appreciated.