Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford African American Studies Center. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 05 July 2020

Chesnutt, Charles Waddell locked

1858–1932 Pioneering African American writer, known especially for short stories that realistically depict the full range of black experience.
  • Lisa Clayton Robinson


Charles W. Chesnutt was one of the first African American writers to become a mainstream success by writing fiction that realistically portrayed the complexities of African American life. Chesnutt was unusually honest about the problems inherent in that experience, and his stories remain valuable for their descriptions of nineteenth-century black culture and attitudes.

Chesnutt was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His parents were both mixed-race free blacks who had emigrated to Ohio but moved back south to Fayetteville, North Carolina, shortly after his birth. Chesnutt grew up during Reconstruction in relative privilege for an African American, and although he had a reputation for being largely self-taught, he also attended a school founded by the Freedmen's Bureau, the federal agency created to aid the former slaves after the American Civil War (1861–1865 After working as a schoolteacher and then as a principal in Southern schools during his late teens ...

A version of this article originally appeared in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Access to the full content requires a subscription