Charles W. Chesnutt: essays and speeches by Joseph R. McElrath Jr., Robert C. Leitz III, Jesse S.

By Joseph R. McElrath Jr., Robert C. Leitz III, Jesse S. Crisler

Over the last decade, expanding awareness has been paid to the lifestyles and paintings of Charles W. Chesnutt (1858-1932), thought of by means of many the key African-American fiction author ahead of the Harlem Renaissance by way of advantage of the 3 novels and collections of brief tales he released among 1899 and 1905.Less well-known are the essays he wrote for American periodicals from 1899 via 1931, the vast majority of that are analyses of and protests opposed to white racism. accrued to boot during this quantity are the addresses he made to either white and black audiences from 1881 via 1931, on issues starting from race prejudice to the existence and literary profession of Alexandre Dumas.The seventy seven works integrated during this quantity include all of Chesnutt’s recognized works of nonfiction, 38 of that are reprinted right here for the 1st time. They exhibit an ardent and infrequently outraged spokesman for the African American whose militancy elevated to this type of measure that, by means of 1903, he had extra in universal with W. E. B. Du Bois than Booker T. Washington. He was once, even if, a lifelong integrationist or even an suggest of “race amalgamation,” seeing interracial marriage because the final technique of fixing “the Negro Problem,” because it used to be termed on the finish of the century. That he championed the African American throughout the Jim Crow period whereas opposing Black Nationalism and different “race satisfaction” hobbies attests to the way in which Chesnutt outlined himself as a arguable determine, in his time and ours.The essays and speeches during this quantity usually are not, despite the fact that, constrained to polemical writings. An educator, lawyer, and guy of letters with wide-ranging pursuits, Chesnutt stands as a humanist addressing matters of common curiosity, together with the novels of George Meredith, the accomplishments of Samuel Johnson, and the connection among literature and lifestyles.

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Despite an unprecedentedly energetic advertising campaign on behalf of The Marrow of Tradition in 1901 and Chesnutt's conviction that it would be recognized as the successor to Uncle Tom's Cabin (a claim repeatedly made in advertisements for the novel), it too failed to meet Chesnutt's or Houghton, Mifflin's heady expectations; and it proved to be Houghton, Mifflin's last act of faith in Chesnutt's salability. By 1902, Chesnutt could no longer afford to remain retired from business; it was necessary to go back into harness, advertising himself in the Cleveland city directory as attorney, stenographer, and notary public.

That Chesnutt was predisposed to burn candles at both endseven during his 18991902 "retirement" from business when he finished two published novels, worked on other literary manuscripts, gave public presentations in the North and South, and wrote several essaysis the consensus among all who have studied his life. While meeting the exacting demands of his 18991902 belletristic schedule and those of a highly successful stenographic career before and after, he continued his self-education regimen, systematically surveyed the evidence in periodicals of the state of race relations in the United States, participated in local civic affairs and national organizations advancing the African-American cause, and in what time remained frequented the Cleveland Public Library to perform the research requisite for writing and speaking on subjects ranging from the life and works of François Villon to the social status of former slaves in the Caribbean.

In the summer of 1898 his reputation as a contributor to periodicals peaked as "The Wife of His Youth" drew applause from across the country; and in 1899 he earned considerable attention when he became known as the author of not only two books of short stories but a biography of Frederick Douglass. The next year his first novel was published, and 1901 saw the appearance of another. Further, he had assumed visibility on the national stage in a special way. In 1898 his racial status had become the common knowledge of literary essayists and book reviewers.

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