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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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8. Regional Realism   

8. Regional

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Activities: Author Activities

Charles W. Chesnutt - Selected Archive Items

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[4112] Anonymous, Two women hulling rice, Sapelo Island, Georgia (c. 1900),
courtesy of the Georgia Department of Archives and History.
Technological advancements were slow to arrive in many parts of the country, particularly in the less industrialized South. Here, two African American women use a traditional mortar and pestle to remove the hulls from rice.

[4261] Anonymous, Charles Chesnutt [portrait] (1939),
courtesy of Fisk University.
Photograph of Charles W. Chesnutt, a pioneer African American author. Written in African American dialect, his "Uncle Julius" stories are similar to regional folktales popularized by white author Joel Chandler Harris. Chesnutt's work, however, intentionally and subtly satirized the condescending stereotypes of African Americans during the nineteenth century.

[4268] Anonymous, Charles Chesnutt study (1906),
courtesy of Fisk University.
Charles W. Chesnutt worked as a school principal, a stenographer, and, eventually, a lawyer. The expansion of the magazine industry gave Chesnutt his first opportunity to publish. His works depicted both average southern blacks and those of mixed blood who lived on the color line.

[4269] Anonymous, Charles Chesnutt (n.d.),
courtesy of Fisk University Library's Special Collections.
As a person of mixed race, Chesnutt felt removed from both white and black society. "I am too stuck up for colored folks," he wrote, "and, of course, not recognized by whites." From this distance, Chesnutt explored issues of race within the black community.

[4419] Anonymous, African Americans in front of piano (c. 1875-1900),
courtesy of the New York Public Library.
The values that informed parlor culture--the ability to devote the parlor space to formal display rather than stocking it with furnishings designed for private, daily use--were not limited to the wealthy or the urban in mid-nineteenth-century America.

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