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A landmark in the history of African-American fiction, this gripping 1901 novel unfolds against the backdrop of the post-Reconstruction South, climaxing in a race riot based on an actual 1898 incident.
The Marrow of Tradition (1901) is a historical novel by the African-American author Charles W. Chesnutt, set at the time and portraying a fictional account of the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina.Plot introductionThis story is a fictional account of the rise of the white supremacist movement, specifically as it contributed to the "race riots" that took place in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1898. Critics argue over what would be a more proper term; some favor "massacre" while a North Carolina state commission ruled that it was a coup d'etat, the only overthrow of a legitimately elected government in United States history. Whites attacked and killed blacks in the city and overthrew the county government, establishing white supremacists in power.Chesnutt anticipated the book would "become lodged in the popular mind as the legitimate successor of Uncle Tom's Cabin... as depicting an era in our national history". The book was poorly received in the South and received mixed reviews in the North. It ultimately sold only 3,726 copies in its first year
The latest work from the pen of Mr. Charles W. Chesnutt, "The Marrow of Tradition," is a notable production. Indeed, it is the strongest and most absorbing story of Southern life which has yet come from that sectional phase of American life. Cable, Page, Tourgee and Joel Chandler Harris have penned with cunning fidelity stories of "Dixie land," and Harriet Beecher Stowe's great story was great because of the moral influence it exerted, rather than its artistic finish. In the "Marrow of Tradition" we find every phase of Southern life painted with such rare fidelity that at last appears the cultured and industrious phase of Afro-American life, not over done, but just as we know it to be. At last the Southern white aristocrat, "poor white," ante-bellum Negro and cultured Afro-American are placed in juxtaposition in a chef d'oeuvre of Charles W. Chestnutt, which easily puts him in the front rank of American novelists.

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