Charles W. Chesnutt

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Charles W. Chesnutt

Though born in Cleveland in 1858, the grandson of a white man and the son of free blacks, Charles W. Chesnutt grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina where his family, having left the South originally in 1856, returned after the Civil War. Chesnutt who had little formal education taught himself and also received tutoring from family members. Chesnutt is known as one of the great American novelist and short-story writers of the late 19th century.

Chesnutt lived most of his childhood in Fayetteville, NC where he

worked part time in a family grocery store and attended a school founded by

the Freedmen's Bureau. By 14 he had published his first short story in a

Fayetteville newspaper. "I think I must write a book It has been my

cherished dream and I feel an influence that I cannot resist calling me to

the task."(1) At 15 Charles dropped out of school to support his family.

By the age of 16, he had come to Charlotte to teach the city's

black schoolchildren and also to support his family. He had an

intense thirst for knowledge. At a time when few educational opportunities

existed for black Americans, he studied math, music, literature and

languages. He left Charlotte to take a job as assistant principal of the State

Normal School. By age 22, he was its principal. "There's time enough, but

none to spare."(1)

Lack of opportunity to advance led him to go to New York City

to find work at Dow, Jones and Company and also writes a financial

news column for the New York Mail and Express. Later that year his

son Edwin J. Chesnutt is born. In November, he leaves New York for

Cleveland where he begins to work in the accounting department of

Nickel Plate Railroad Company. While in Cleveland Chesnutt studied


While in Cleveland Chesnutt supports his mother and father

while supporting his own family. Chesnutt begins to write for Family

Fiction. While working at Nickel Plate Railroad Company and

writing for Family Fiction he continues to study law. A year later, he

passes the Ohio Bar Exam and joins the law offices of Henderson,

Kline, and Tolles. Chesnutt published "The Goophered Grapevine" in

the Atlantic Monthly became the first work written by a black author.

The success of "The Goophered Grapevine" leads him to publish "Po’

Sandy" and "Dave’s neckliss" in the Atlantic Monthly.

Chesnutt decides to start his own firm of Attorneys, stenographers,

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