The novelist Mark Twain was born on this day in 1835. Beginning in November 1874, he was a regular contributor to The Atlantic, and he had a special fondness for its readership. As he explained in an 1874 letter to editor William Dean Howells:
His first story for the magazine, though, was anything but humorous. According to Twain, it was “a true story, word for word as I heard it” from a former slave, who—when Twain suggested she’d “never had any trouble”—quickly set him straight:
“Dey put chains on us an’ put us on a stan’ as high as dis po’ch,—twenty foot high,—an’ all de people stood aroun’, crowds an’ crowds. An’ dey’d come up dah an’ look at us all roun’, an’ squeeze our arm, an’ make us git up an’ walk, an’ den say, ‘Dis one too ole,’ or ‘Dis one lame,’ or ‘Dis one don’t ’mount to much.’ An’ dey sole my ole man, an’ took him away, an’ dey begin to sell my chil’en an’ take dem away, an’ I begin to cry.”
Read more of Twain’s work for The Atlantic here.