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Available February 2001, African American History Month

Essential Writings from the Pioneer of African-American Literature


Before Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, before James Weldon Johnson and Nella Larsen, Charles W. Chesnutt broke new ground in American literature with searching explorations of the meaning of race and innovative use of African American speech and folklore. Rejecting genteel Victorian hypocrisy about miscegenation, lynching, and "passing," Chesnutt exposed the deformed logic of Jim Crow with novels and stories of formal clarity-creating, in the process, the modern African American novel. Here is the best of Chesnutt's work in the largest and most comprehensive edition ever published, presenting for the first time the full range of his achievement as a writer and social critic.

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Charles W. Chesnutt: Stories, Novels, and Essays

Price: $35.00
ISBN: 1-931082-06-5
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The Conjure Woman (1899) introduced Chesnutt to the public as a writer of "conjure" tales, stories that explore black folklore and supernaturalism. That same year, he published The Wife of His Youth, and Other Stories of the Color Line, stories set in Chesnutt's native North Carolina that dramatize the legacies of slavery and Reconstruction at the turn of the century. His first novel, The House Behind the Cedars (1900), tells, as no previous novel ever had, of racial passing. The Marrow of Tradition (1901), Chesnutt's masterpiece, is a powerful and bitter novel about the harsh reassertion of white dominance in a southern town at the end of the Reconstruction era, based largely on the Wilmington race riot.

Nine uncollected short stories, including conjure tales omitted from The Conjure Woman, round out a selection of the author's fiction. Eight essays highlight Chesnutt's prescient views on the paradoxes of race relations in America and the definition of race itself.

Werner Sollors teaches Afro-American Studies and English at Harvard University. His most recent book is Neither Black Nor White Yet Both: Thematic Explorations of Interracial Literature.

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