Chesnutt's Works





Site Info


Stories of the Color Line

"The Wife of His Youth, and Other Stories of the Color Line," by Charles W. Chesnutt (Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston and New York), a collection of nine short stories of life among colored people since the change of relations between the races which was an outcome of the civil war, offers views of the workings of the mind and the aspirations of the negro race by one who has obviously made a study of the matter and is in sympathy with the aspirations. It is not matter of surprise that people so long under restraint and deprived of practically all freedom of thought as well as movement-because thought cannot be free in movement when it has no liberty in collecting data or means of establishing standards of comparisons-should do many things, and try to do more, that seems grotesque to the mind which is more a heritor of free activity. These things do not escape Mr. Chesnutt's attention, and his stories are not without gleams of good-humored satire. But it is always genial, or with a genial undertone, while the really sterling qualities of the race are thrown into much higher relief, and there is always a strong and deep sympathy with the blood held for centuries in bondage. Some of the stories illustrate the profound pathos of the situation growing out of our system of slavery, but they rarely, probably never, present anything that can fairly be called offensive, recognizing, as the author appears tacitly to do, that for many years the system was an inheritance, and so free from moral responsibility, to the whites as truly as to the black.


"Stories of the Color Line." Review of The Wife of His Youth. In: Current Literature, The Chicago Chronicle 2 January 1900: 10.