Charles Waddell Chesnutt (1858-1932), is regarded as one of the most accomplished late-19th-century American writers of fiction, and was one of the best known and critically acclaimed African American writers of his day. He is best known as the author of the novels The Marrow of Tradition (1901) and The House Behind the Cedars (1900), as well as the short story collections The Wife of his Youth (1899) and The Conjure Woman (1899). Chenutt was an astute and nuanced chronicler of the aftermath of slavery in the south, and was particularly interested in the arbitrary yet powerful legal and social conventions of the "color line" separating black from white. Increasingly alarmed by the rise of racial tensions and violence in the 1890's, Chesnutt hoped that his most ambitious novel, The Marrow of Tradition, would have an impact on the nation of the order of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Unfortunately, his most powerful work of social criticism was not critically successful in his day, and his literary reputation was soon eclipsed by the vibrancy and innovation of the Harlem Renaissance writers.
Today, interest in Chesnutt is once again on the rise. This literary web site is a contribution to the new conversation about Charles Chesnutt. The focus here is not on biography or history, but on Chesnutt's literary achievement.
All the essays gathered in this literary web are the original work of students at Rutgers University.
Continue to the Essays
More about the Chesnutt Literary Web