By Charles W. Chesnutt
Houghton Mifflin & Co., Boston. $1.50.
Mr. Chesnutt is steadily increasing in dramatic power as a novelist. "The Marrow of Tradition" is a picture, from the Negro's standpoint, of present-day conditions in the South, and it is but fair that what is seen from this point of view should be made known. The race is fortunate in having so able an advocate as Mr. Chesnutt. The hope was expressed some years ago in the SOUTHERN WORKMAN, in connection with a review of "The Conjure Woman", that Mr. Chesnutt would, in the future, by sustained and serious work in bringing before the reading public the little understood life of his race, help us to a closer understanding of and sympathy with this struggling people. This hope has been fulfilled in all his later books.
While "The Marrow of Tradition" is not the pleasantest reading possible, no one can deny its dramatic force or the ability of its author as a novel writer. It is a vigorous protest against the crime of lynching, and makes one realize that it is quite possible that a perfectly innocent and inoffensive man may be made the victim of the worst cruelties of which an angry mob may be guilty. The folly as well as the wickedness of lynch law is well shown, and also the ability of leading citizens to prevent its action when they are so minded. The closing chapters give vivid pictures of events resembling those that resulted from the Wilmington riots of two years ago. While the scenes so skillfully depicted in this book may be thought by some overdrawn or at least not general in the South, the fact still remains that they are sufficiently true to fact to cause the thoughtful reader to inquire what may be the remedy for these things. As Mr. Chesnutt himself says: "The Negro question plunged the nation into a bloody war, and it will trouble the American government and the American conscience until a sustained attempt is made to settle it upon principles of justice and equity."
Rev. of The Marrow of Tradition in The Southern Workman 30(Dec. 1901): 695-96.