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Freedom on the River | Hannibal

March 06, 2018

March 6 - March 8, 2018

To us, being able to experience an overnight train ride as our first method of transportation on this trip really meant a lot. While it may not have been a steam engine as he would have experienced, Mark Twain was still probably familiar with the same basics of train travel as we experienced. The uncomfortable seats were lightened by fantastic views, and the lulling of the train and the rhythmic clacking of the rails helped put us to sleep despite the uncomfortable positions. The American Railway System really is an institute of contradictions, as shown by its teetering relationship with the concept of freedom. Where railways allowed for slave trade within the south, it also allowed a new outlet for enslaved people to escape to the north. And where it displaced people by separating groups of Native Americans, it also allowed new opportunities for connection. By using a train as our first way to travel, we were able to look into how freedom connects with so many things and how sometimes those same things disconnect freedom from itself.

During our visit to Hannibal, Missouri, we were able to experience the small town that inspired many of the writings of Mark Twain and that is now, in turn, inspired by his writings. During our visit to Hannibal, we immersed ourselves in the town, eating dinner at a local barbecue restaurant, visiting Mark Twain’s boyhood home, and touring the cave system present in many of Mark Twain’s stories. At the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, we experienced direct references from Mark Twain’s stories, such as the white picket fence and Becky’s house. These stories were inspired by his childhood and gave us the opportunity to reflect on how our own childhoods have affected us. While exploring the cave systems from Mark Twain’s childhood and novels, we learned about the cave’s involvement in the history of America’s Hometown, as they call it here in Hannibal. We discovered this through the endless stories and facts as we were winding our way through the deep and complex cave system. Overall, Hannibal was an exciting and valuable experience for all of us.