Skip to main content

[Review of The Conjure Woman]

The Conjure Woman.

Several of the negro-dialect stories in this volume have previously appeared in the magazines, but we believe this to be Mr. Charles W. Chesnutt's first book. The author has evidently made a careful study of the Southern negro during his residence in North Carolina, and the old darkey, Julius McAdoo, whose half dozen "goopher" stories make up the volume, is an admirable type. No one who has not had a personal experience of Southern plantation life can understand how absolutely the negro believes in the occult power of the "cunjuh 'omen" who is to be found in or about every considerable settlement. As a matter of fact, this belief in the efficacy of voodoo charms is by no means confined to the negroes. The poor white are fully as superstitious in this respect as the blacks, and members of the better informed classes, while they affect to ridicule the voodoo, will often be found carrying for good luck "the left foot of a rabbit, killed in a graveyard in the waning of the moon." Mr. Chesnutt's "Uncle Julius" possesses an interesting repertoire of "conjure stories" and the author has very ingeniously introduced in the narrative a number of pathetic and humorous incidents, illustrating the strange conditions that existed under the old slavery system of the South. A good example of the first will be found in "Sis' Becky's Pickaninny," and of the last in Dugal' McAdoo's experience with Henry in "The Goophered Grapevine." "The Conjure Woman" very vividly reproduces some phases of a peculiar life that has fortunately passed away forever, its memory only lingering in the recollection of those of the elder generation. Houghton, Mifflin & Co. Cloth, $1.25. For sale by Amee Brothers.