Charles W. Chesnutt, Edited by Nancy Bentely and Sandra Gunning
This teaching edition of Charles W. Chesnutt’s 1901 novel about racial conflict in a Southern town features an extensive selection of materials that place the work in its historical context. Organized thematically, these materials explore caste, gender, and race after Reconstruction; postbellum laws and lynching; the 1898 Wilmington riot upon which the narrative is based; and the fin de siecle culture of segregation. The thematic sections are rich with documents such as letters, photographs, editorials, speeches, legal decisions, journalism, and essays from leading periodicals of the era. The writers represented include such well-known figures as W. E. B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, as well as fascinating, half-forgotten characters like the black newspaper editor Alexander Manly and the white supremacist Thomas Dixon. The editors’ introductions and selection headnotes provide additional background for understanding the mythology of race and Chesnutt’s penetrating examination of its mechanisms and consequences.