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By: Charles Waddell Chesnutt (1858-1932)

The Conjure Woman by Charles Waddell Chesnutt The Conjure Woman

Published in 1899 by Houghton Mifflin, Chesnutt's first book, The Conjure Woman, was a collection of seven short stories, all set in "Patesville" (Fayetteville), North Carolina. While drawing from local color traditions and relying on dialect, Chesnutt's tales of conjuring, a form of magic rooted in African hoodoo, refused to romanticize slave life or the "Old South." Though necessarily informed by Joel Chandler Harris's popular Uncle Remus stories and Thomas Nelson Page's plantation fiction, The Conjure Woman consciously moved away from these models, instead offering an almost biting examination of pre- and post-Civil War race relations...

The Marrow of Tradition by Charles Waddell Chesnutt The Marrow of Tradition

In The Marrow of Tradition, Charles W. Chesnutt--using the 1898 Wilmington, North Carolina massacre as a backdrop--probes and exposes the raw nerves and internal machinery of racism in the post-Reconstruction-era South; explores how miscegenation, caste, gender and the idea of white supremacy informed Jim Crow laws; and unflinchingly revisits the most brutal of terror tactics, mob lynchings. (Introduction by James K. White)

The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line by Charles Waddell Chesnutt The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line

Published in 1899, The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line is a collection of narratives that addresses the impact of Jim Crow laws on African Americans and white Americans of the South. Many of Chesnutt's characters are of mixed-race ancestry which sets them apart for a specific yet degrading kind of treatment from blacks and whites. These stories examine particularly how life in the South was informed through a legacy of slavery and Reconstruction—how members of the “old dominion” desperately struggled to breath life into the corpse of an antebellum caste system that no longer defined the path and direction in which this country was headed...

Book cover The Conjure Woman
Book cover Frederick Douglass A Biography
Book cover The Wife of his Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line, and Selected Essays
Book cover House Behind the Cedars

In this, Chesnutt's first novel, he tells the tragic story of love set against a backdrop of racism, miscegenation and “passing” during the period spanning the antebellum and reconstruction eras in American history. And through his use of the vernacular prevalent in the South of that time, Chesnutt lent a compassionate voice to a group that America did not want to hear. More broadly, however, Chesnutt illustrated, in this character play, the vast and perhaps insurmountable debt this country continues to pay for the sins of slavery.

Book cover Colonel's Dream

In this novel, Chesnutt described the hopelessness of Reconstruction in a post-Civil War South that was bent on reestablishing the former status quo and rebuilding itself as a region of the United States where new forms of "slavery" would replace the old. This novel illustrated how race hatred and the impotence of a reluctant Federal Government trumped the rule of law, ultimately setting the stage for the rise of institutions such as Jim Crow, lynching, chain gangs and work farms--all established with the intent of disenfranchising African Americans.


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