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[Review of The Marrow of Tradition]


The Marrow of Tradition, by Charles W. Chesnutt, constitutes a plea upon the racial question, which is worthy of consideration. The tremendous importance of the subject, and the intense prejudices, racial and sectional, which have been evolved by it make it imperative that it should be maintained in the attention of the public and fiction is an impressive medium of presentation. The author is not a radical upon the question: while his opinion is favorable to the Negro, he makes no advocacy of a sweeping change of the race's relative social status in the Marrow of Tradition. He may be classed as a progressivist, for, from the book, we deduce that he deems that the negro individually should be allowed that social position of which he is fitted by his moral development and intellectual attainments. The story is directed principally against the prejudice of those who, disregarding all individuality in the negro, would bind him to a disadvantageously ethnical position. To militate against such lack of discrimination the author delineates two contrasting characters, one, the white man, descendant of an old family, imbued with the prejudices from tradition, a man of some ability and considerable influence, and the other a member of the Afro American race, an educated man deserving respect in his chosen profession, recognized as such by those in authority upon the subject. In the course of the story, the author draws a harrowing picture of the mob assault upon the negroes, and also presents the question of the person of mixed blood. The book is very comprehensive, and the problem is treated skillfully. The story emphasizes the necessity for general serious endeavor to arrive at a final solution of the racial question. [The Marrow of Tradition, by Charles W. Chesnutt. Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston.]