Born in Cleveland, Ohio 20 June 1858 to free “persons of color”
Grandfather was a slave owner
Wrote about the complexities of mixed-race social status in the South
When he was 8, parents moved back to Fayettevile, NC
Began teaching in 1872
1880, principal of the Fayetteville State Normal School for Negroes
Returned to Cleveland 1883 and after passing state bar exam became a court
Themes and Writing Style
Wrote so his work was not identified as African American
Myth of the “happy darky” on the plantation
The mixed-blood person
Interbreeding of different races natural progression, not shocking
Wrote to counter stories by Thomas Nelson Page, Joel Chandler Harris, Paul
Lawrence Dunbar, and Frederick Douglas
Chesnutt “was awarded the Spingarn Medal in 1928 by the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People for his pioneering literary work on behalf of the Afro-
American struggle. Today Chesnutt is recognized as a major innovator in the tradition of Afro
American fiction, an important contributor to the deromanticizing trend in post-Civil War
southern literature and a singular voice among turn-of-the-century realists who treated the
color line in American life” (William L. Andrews, “Charles Wardell Chesnutt 1858-1932,”
Documenting the American South).
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