Charles W. Chesnutt

Ohio author Charles W. Chesnutt (1858-1932) was the first nationally known African American fiction writer. He published three novels, two collections of short stories, a biography of Frederick Douglass, and dozens of short stories and essays in prestigious magazines of his day.

Listed in: Ohio and Regional · Fiction · American Literature · African American Authors · Literary Studies

The first African American fiction writer to earn a national reputation, Charles W. Chesnutt remains best known for his depictions of Southern life before and after the Civil War. But he also produced a large body of what might best be called his “Northern” writings, and those works, taken together, describe the intriguing ways in which America was reshaping itself at the turn of the last century.

“Recently, literary scholars have rediscovered Chesnutt’s graceful, ironic, and taut prose...and his works are assigned in many American literature courses. He teaches well: College students enjoy learning about Reconstruction, a fascinating and under-known period in American history, and reading Chesnutt’s subtle prose and still-pertinent treatments of American race relations.”