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CHARLES W. CHESNUTT

Charles Waddell Chesnutt (1858 – 1932) was a teacher, lawyer, activist, and the most prominent black prose author of his time. Chesnutt was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of free blacks who had emigrated from Fayetteville, N.C. When he was eight years old, his parents returned to Fayetteville, where Charles worked in the family grocery store and attended a school founded by the Freedmen’s Bureau. In 1880 he became principal of the Fayetteville State Normal School for Negroes. In 1883, seeking broader opportunities, he moved his family to Cleveland. There he passed the state bar examination and established his own court reporting firm. “The Goophered Grapevine” was Chesnutt’s first nationally recognized work. Its publication in the August 1887 issue of the Atlantic Monthly marked the first time that a story by a black author had appeared in that prestigious magazine. Despite the critical acclaim resulting from his works of fiction and non-fiction, Chesnutt was unable to make a living as an author, but his successful business allowed him to keep writing, and he published two short story collections, three novels, and numerous essays. He was awarded the Spingarn Medal in 1928 by the NAACP for his pioneering literary work on behalf of the Afro-American struggle.

African-American Classics:
Graphic Classics Volume 22

144 pages, color, $15

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