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[Review of The Conjure Woman]

Charles W. Chesnutt, author of "The Conjure Woman" (Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston), has himself a slight strain of negro blood in his veins. Consequently we are to expect that he does full justice to negro character in depicting slave life in North Carolina before the war. The volume contains seven stories, only related in so far as they illustrate the supernatural power of "the conjure woman." They are strung on a slight thread and told mainly in negro dialect, but a Northern gentleman and his wife are among the leading characters, and the reader realizes them as well as he realizes Julius, the narrator of the tales of witchcraft and necromancy. The real value of such stories consists in the fact that each presents a distinctive episode illustrating the more intimate phases of slave life on Southern plantations not long before the war. At that period the passive acceptance of conditions and almost inarticulate endurance of their hardships by the slaves concealed a ferment which the student of sociology in its less superficial aspects is beginning to understand as a factor of some importance in relation to the events leading to emancipation.