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Charles W. Chesnutt

Charles Waddell Chesnutt (June 20, 1858 – November 15, 1932) was an African-American author, essayist, political activist and lawyer, best known for his novels and short stories exploring complex issues of racial and social identity.

Chesnutt was the son of free blacks who had left their native city of Fayetteville, N.C., prior to the American Civil War. Following the war, his parents moved back to Fayetteville, where Chesnutt completed his education and began teaching. He was named assistant principal and then principal of State Colored Normal School, now Fayetteville State University. He became distressed about the treatment of African-Americans in the South, and moved his wife and children to Cleveland. He worked as a clerk-stenographer while becoming a practicing attorney and establishing a profitable legal stenography firm. In his spare time, he wrote stories.

In 1887, The Atlantic Monthly published his first short story, The Goophered Grapevine. It was the first work by an African-American to be published by The Atlantic. Two of his books were adapted as films by African-American director and producer Oscar Micheaux.

In 1910, Chesnutt served on the General Committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Working with W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, he became one of the early 20th century's most prominent activists and commentators.

In 1917, Chesnutt protested showings in Ohio of the controversial film Birth of a Nation, which the NAACP officially protested at venues across the nation.

Following the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century, interest in the Chestnutt's works was revived. Several of his books were published in new editions.

On 31 January 2008, the United States Postal Service honored Chesnutt with a stamp in the Black Heritage Series.

Chesnutt died on November 15, 1932, he was 74 years-old.

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