Chesnutt, Charles W. (Charles Waddell), 1858-1932

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Charles Waddell Chesnutt was America's first important African-American author, and earned a reputation for both his socially conscious work and his literary innovation. Born in Cleveland to free black parents, he was raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and travelled throughout the south, as well as New York and Washington, D.C., before settling in Cleveland with his wife. He had worked as a teacher, and in Cleveland started a successful stenography business, learned law, and passed the bar exam. Chesnutt published numerous short stories and articles, and eventually wrote several novels, including The Conjure Woman (1899). He sought to entertain and educate, and his themes of racial prejudice and miscegnation led to critical appreciation of his work.

From the description of Charles Waddell Chesnutt letters, 1899-1900. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 106473406

African American author, first African American fiction writer to receive serious attention.

From the description of Charles W. Chesnutt papers, 1864-1938. (Fisk University). WorldCat record id: 70971631

Cleveland, Ohio court reporter, novelist and short story writer. He was the first Black novelist and short story writer to win recognition on a nationwide scale.

From the description of Charles Waddell Chesnutt papers, 1889-1932. (Rhinelander District Library). WorldCat record id: 17725484

From the description of Charles Waddell Chesnutt papers, 1889-1932 [microform]. (Rhinelander District Library). WorldCat record id: 47358724

African American novelist and lawyer; second principal of State Colored Normal School, Fayetteville, N.C.

From the description of Charles Waddell Chesnutt collection, 1821-1976. (Fayetteville State University). WorldCat record id: 70965180

Author.

From the description of Papers of Charles Waddell Chesnutt, 1889-1932. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 71068132

click here to view the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History entry for Charles Waddell Chesnutt

Charles Waddell Chesnutt (1858-1932) was the first African American novelist and short story writer to gain national distinction in the United States before 1900.

Chesnutt was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on June 20, 1858, the son of Andrew Jackson and Maria Sampson Chesnutt, who had come from North Carolina to Cleveland as "free persons of color" in a covered wagon two years earlier. After he was discharged from service in the American Civil War, Andrew Jackson Chesnutt remained in his native North Carolina and his Cleveland family moved there. Charles Chesnutt was educated in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and at the age of 16 began teaching in small country schools. Constantly engaged in self study, he mastered in Latin, Greek, and shorthand.

In 1882, at the age of 25, Chesnutt went to New York City and worked as a newspaper reporter. Six months later, he returned to Cleveland and worked as a clerk while studying law. Although he never actually practiced law, he remained in the field by becoming a court reporter.

Chesnutt found time to write, and he became a master in the difficult art of short story writing. Starting in 1887, he had seven short stories published in the Atlantic Monthly, one of the leading magazines of the day. In 1899 the Houghton Mifflin Company published a collection of his stories under the title The Conjure Woman . The Wife of his Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line appeared in 1899 also and received most complimentary reviews. In quick succession, other novels followed: The House Behind the Cedars (1900), The Marrow Tradition (1901), The Colonel's Dream (1905), and several others. He was a frequent contributor to magazines, writing serious articles on various phases of race relations in America.

The work of Chesnutt brought the African American experience into serious recognition on the basis of merit. His experiences in the South during the difficult period of Reconstruction furnished the inspiration and theme for his writings. The bitter heritage of slavery, the clash of races, the striving of the disadvantaged created dramatic situations, and he depicted them with the pen of a master. With the passing of the generation that followed the American Civil War, interest in the type of literature created by Chesnutt had declined by 1910. Chesnutt died on November 15, 1932.

From the guide to the Charles Waddell Chesnutt Papers, 1889-1932, (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Liggett, Carr. Papers / Carr Liggett. Ohio University, Alden Library
creatorOf Green, John Paterson, 1845-1940. John Paterson Green papers, 1869-1910. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
creatorOf Chesnutt, Charles Waddell, 1858-1932. [A collection of periodicals containing articles and stories by Charles W. Chesnutt, 1887-1931. Cleveland Public Library, Main Library
referencedIn Houghton Mifflin Company. Houghton Mifflin Company reader reports on manuscripts submitted for publication. 1882-1931. Houghton Library
referencedIn James Lowell Gibbs collection of African-American documents, 1865-1918 Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
referencedIn Fayetteville State University. Photographs, 1880-1990 (bulk 1960-1990). Fayetteville State University, Charles W. Chesnutt Library
referencedIn Houghton Mifflin Company contracts, 1831-1979 (inclusive) 1880-1940 (bulk). Houghton Library
creatorOf Charles Waddell Chesnutt Papers, 1889-1932 Western Reserve Historical Society
referencedIn Green, John Patterson, b. 1845. Papers of John Patterson Green, 1869-1910. Library of Congress
referencedIn Horace Traubel and Anne Montgomerie Traubel Papers, 1824-1979, (bulk 1883-1947) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Chesnutt, Charles Waddell, 1858-1932. Papers of Charles Waddell Chesnutt, 1889-1932. Library of Congress
referencedIn Traubel, Horace, 1858-1919. Horace Traubel and Anne Montgomerie Traubel papers, 1824-1979 (bulk 1883-1947). Library of Congress
referencedIn Page, Walter Hines, 1855-1918. Walter Hines Page letters to Charles Waddell Chesnutt, 1897-1913. Houghton Library
creatorOf [Photographs of Charles W. Chesnutt and his family, his homes in Cleveland and North Carolina, and the Howard School in Fayetteville, N.C.]. Cleveland Public Library, Main Library
creatorOf Chesnutt, Charles W. (Charles Waddell), 1858-1932. The Charles Waddell Chestnutt papers in the Library of the Western Reserve Historical Society [microform] / editor, Olivia J. Martin. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Cleveland Public Library. [Miscellaneous memorabilia of Charles W. Chesnutt, from the exhibition at Cleveland Public Library, June 19-July 18, 1958]. Cleveland Public Library, Main Library
creatorOf Chesnutt, Charles Waddell, 1858-1932. Magazine stories and articles / Chas. W. Chesnutt. Cleveland Public Library, Main Library
referencedIn Stanford University Press archival book copies, 1900-2012 Cecil H. Green Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn African American History collection, African American history collection, 1729-1970, 1800-1865 William L. Clements Library
creatorOf Chesnutt, Charles Waddell, 1858-1932. Charles Waddell Chesnutt papers, 1889-1932 [microform]. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
creatorOf Chesnutt, Charles Waddell, 1858-1932. Charles Waddell Chesnutt papers, 1889-1932. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
creatorOf Martin, Charles Douglass, 1873-1942. Charles D. Martin collection, 1889-1942. North Carolina Central University, James E. Shepard Memorial Library
creatorOf Chesnutt, Charles W. (Charles Waddell), 1858-1932. Charles Waddell Chesnutt letters, 1899-1900. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
creatorOf Chesnutt, Charles Waddell, 1858-1932. Charles Waddell Chesnutt collection, 1821-1976. Fayetteville State University, Charles W. Chesnutt Library
creatorOf William L. Clements Library. African American History collection, 1729-1970, bulk 1800-1865. William L. Clements Library
creatorOf Chesnutt, Charles Waddell, 1858-1932. Mrs. Darcy's daughter [microform] : a play in four acts / by Charles W. Chesnutt. University of Missouri -- Columbia, MU Libraries; University of Missouri; MU; Ellis Library; University of Missouri Columbia
creatorOf Chesnutt, Charles Waddell, 1858-1932. Charles W. Chesnutt papers, 1864-1938. John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library. Special Collections & Archives
referencedIn Washington, Booker T., 1856-1915. Booker T. Washington papers, 1903-1916. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Page, Walter Hines, 1855-1918, recipient. Letters from various correspondents, American period, 1876-1937 Houghton Library
referencedIn Autograph File, C, 1554-2002. Houghton Library
creatorOf Chesnutt, Charles Waddell, 1858-1932. The house behind the cedars : typescripts / Chas. W. Chesnutt. Cleveland Public Library, Main Library
referencedIn Houghton Mifflin Company correspondence and records, 1832-1944. Houghton Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Cable, George Washington, 1844-1925 person
correspondedWith Chesnutt, Andrew J. (Andrew Jackson), 1833-1920 person
correspondedWith Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963 person
associatedWith Fayetteville State University. corporateBody
associatedWith Green, John Patterson, b. 1845. person
correspondedWith Higginson, Thomas Wentworth, 1823-1911 person
associatedWith Houghton Mifflin Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Howe, M. A. De Wolfe (Mark Antony De Wolfe), 1864-1960, person
correspondedWith Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967 person
associatedWith James Lowell Gibbs. person
associatedWith Liggett, Carr. person
associatedWith Martin, Charles Douglass, 1873-1942. person
associatedWith Maynard, Laurens, 1866-1917, person
associatedWith Page, Walter Hines, 1855-1918. person
associatedWith Small, Herbert, person
associatedWith Small, Maynard & Company, corporateBody
correspondedWith Stanford University. Press. corporateBody
associatedWith State Colored Normal School (Fayetteville, N.C.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Traubel, Anne Montgomerie, 1864-1954 person
correspondedWith Traubel, Horace, 1858-1919. person
correspondedWith Villard, Oswald Garrison, 1872-1949 person
associatedWith Washington, Booker T., 1856-1915. person
correspondedWith Wells-Barnett, Ida B., 1862-1931 person
associatedWith William L. Clements Library. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Ohio--Cleveland
United States
North Carolina--Fayetteville
Subject
Authors, American. Correspondence, reminiscences, etc
African American authors
African American authors--Correspondence
Racism
African American authors--Ohio--Cleveland
African Americans
Authors, American--Ohio--Cleveland
Chesnutt, Charles Waddell, 1858-1932
Authors, American--Correspondence
Authors, American
African Americans--Ohio--Cleveland
Drama--Collections
African American authors--Correspondence, reminiscences, etc
American literature--African American authors
African American universities and colleges
Occupation
Authors
African American authors
African American lawyers
African American school principals--North Carolina--Fayetteville
African American novelists
Activity

Person

Birth 1858-06-20

Death 1932-11-15

Americans

English

Information

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