CHESNUTT, CHARLES W. The son of runaway slaves from Fayetteville, North Carolina, Charles Waddell Chesnutt was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1858. Following the conclusion of the Civil War, the entire family returned to Fayetteville. Chesnutt remained in North Carolina until 1883. Disgusted with southern racial attitudes, he moved to New York and, later, returned to Cleveland. Largely self-educated, Chesnutt passed the Ohio bar in 1887. In addition, he was an accomplished stenographer, having worked for Dow Jones in New York and for a railroad company in Cleveland. It was as a writer of novels and short stories, however, that Chesnutt acquired national recognition.
Although he had written a column for the New York Mail and Express and had contributed a number of articles and poems to newspapers and journals during the early 1880's, Chesnutt's first important work, "The Goophered Grapevine," did not appear in the Atlantic Monthly until 1887. This was followed by two collections of short stories published in 1899 (The Conjure Woman and The Wife of His Youth). His first novel, The House Behind the Cedars (1900), dealt convincingly with a black girl's attempt to "pass" as white. Most of his stories and novels, including his final two books, The Marrow of Tradition (1901) and The Colonel's Dream (1905), were sensitively written accounts of the American racial dilemma from a black man's point of view. Chesnutt died in 1932.