In 1874, Mark Twain published “A True Story, Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It” in the Atlantic Monthly. Although he called the storyteller “Aunt Rachel,” it was told to him by Mary Ann Cord—who worked as a cook in the home of Twain’s sister-in-law—based on her own life. Cord was enslaved from birth, then torn from her husband and children at an auction block. Years later, she miraculously reunited with her youngest son, Henry, when, as a solider in the Union army, he liberated her from slavery. Twain proceeded to write Cord's story down from memory, organizing the events chronologically, editing it, and describing how she told it. He published it, for money, under his name alone. This essay (1) suggests that circumstances like these are not isolated, but rather are indicative of patterns of identity appropriation connected to issues of race and gender and (2) proposes that policymakers and private institutions take these concerns into account as such cases gain increased awareness in our society.
DiRusso, Alyssa A. and McFarlin, Timothy J.
"Identity Appropriation and Wealth Transfer: Twain, Cord, and the Post-Mortem Right of Publicity,"
ACTEC Law Journal: Vol. 48:
1, Article 6.
Available at: https://scholarlycommons.law.hofstra.edu/acteclj/vol48/iss1/6