Margaret Mitchell and Mark Twain are two authors who are often discussed in the context of racism in literature. Gone With the Wind and The Adventures of Huck Finn are two of the most frequently banned books across the U.S.
But while debate rages in school boards across the country, it’s interesting to note that in their personal lives Mitchell and Twain were quite generous to aspiring black professional students. Over a number of years Mitchell secretly funded dozens of African American medical students at Morehouse college and elsewhere, helping to lift up a class of black professionals in the segregated South.
And while Twain’s philanthropy centered on one student in particular, it may have had an even more powerful impact on society. Warner T. McGuinn, the man whose room and board Twain paid at Yale Law School, graduated #1 in his class and went on to become a force in the early civil rights movement in Maryland and a mentor to Thurgood Marshall. In a letter to the dean of the law school, Twain explained his reasoning for supporting McGuinn:
“I do not believe I would very cheerfully help a white student who would ask for the benevolence of a stranger, but I do not feel so about the other color. We have ground the manhood out of them, and the shame is ours, not theirs, and we should pay for it.”