The Journals of Charles W. Chesnutt

The Journals of Charles W. Chesnutt

Book Pages: 200 Illustrations: Published: October 1993

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs

Born on the eve of the Civil War, Charles W. Chesnutt grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a county seat of four or five thousand people, a once-bustling commercial center slipping into postwar decline. Poor, black, and determined to outstrip his modest beginnings and forlorn surroundings, Chesnutt kept a detailed record of his thoughts, observations, and activities from his sixteenth through his twenty-fourth year (1874-1882). These journals, printed here for the first time, are remarkable for their intimate account of a gifted young black man's dawning sense of himself as a writer in the nineteenth century.
Though he achieved literary success in his time, Chesnutt has only recently been rediscovered and his contribution to American literature given its due. The only known private diary from a nineteenth-century African American author, these pages offer a fascinating glimpse into Chesnutt's everyday experience as he struggled to win the goods of education in the world of the post-Civil War South. An extraordinary portrait of the self-made man beset by the urgencies and difficulties of self-improvement in a racially discriminatory society, Chesnutt's journals unfold a richly detailed local history of postwar North Carolina. They also show with great force how the world of the postwar South obstructed--and, unexpectedly, assisted--a black man of driving intellectual ambitions.


“The publication of The Journals of Charles W. Chesnutt provides a valuable contribution to the history of the South and the African American experience in the late nineteenth-century.” — Linda O. McMurray, Journal of Southern History

"The Journals of Charles W. Chesnutt gives us, for the first time, full access to an unprecedented personal narrative, the first intimate self-portrait we have of an African American author in the making. Brodhead's introduction to the journal helps the reader to see the genuine treasure that this text is." — William L. Andrews, author of To Tell a Free Story:The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography

"I can think of no more astute commentator on American life in the rural South in the years after the Civil War than Charles W. Chesnutt. Chesnutt's journals recreate the debilitating racism he encountered as a young man and also reveal the strength, courage, and integrity through which he became one of America's most important writers." — Cathy N. Davidson


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Charles W. Chesnutt (1858-1932) is the author of The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories (1899), The House Behind the Cedars (1900), The Marrow of Tradition (1901), and Colonel's Dream (1905). The Conjure Woman and Other Conjure Tales, a collection of Charles W. Chesnutt's short stories, is also published by Duke University Press.

Richard H. Brodhead, Professor of English at Yale University, is the author of numerous books about nineteenth-century American literature.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

A Note on the Text 37

First Journal, 1874-1875 39

Second Journal, 1877-1881 85

Third Journal, 1881-1882 157

Index 183
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1424-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1379-3
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