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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $15.00
  • May 2012
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-93414-4
  • 576 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

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The Marrow of Tradition

Norton Critical Editions


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Charles W. Chesnutt (Author), Werner Sollors (Editor, Harvard University)


The Norton Critical Edition of this hugely influential novel gives readers the fullest possible sense of its historical background and critical assessment.

Inspired by the 1898 Wilmington Riot and the eyewitness accounts of Charles W. Chesnutt’s own family, Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition captures the astonishing moment in American history when a violent coup d’état resulted in the subversion of a free and democratic election.

The Norton Critical Edition text is based on the 1901 first edition. It is accompanied by a note on the text, Werner Sollors’s insightful introduction, explanatory annotations, and twenty-four photographs and illustrations.

“Contexts” connects the novel to the historical events in Wilmington and includes a wealth of newspaper articles, editorials, and biographical sketches of the central players.

The account of riot instigator Alfred Moore Waddell, published just weeks after the event, is reprinted, along with three rarely seen letters: W. E. B. Du Bois’s and Booker T. Washington’s comments on the novel and Walter Hines Page’s letter to Chesnutt. Rounding out the historical record is a selection of 1890s sheet music, a poem, and newspaper articles on the Cakewalk, a popular dance of the period with roots in slavery.

“Criticism” begins with twelve contemporary reviews, including those by Hamilton Wright Mabie, Katherine Glover, William Dean Howells, and Sterling A. Brown. Fifteen recent assessments focus on the novel’s characters, history, realism, and violence. As scholarship on The Marrow of Tradition and on Wilmington in 1898 has been especially active since the 1990s, ten assessments are from this period.

A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are also included.


    Introduction by Werner Sollors
    Charles W. Chesnutt's Own View of His New Story, The Marrow of Tradition (1901)

    The Text of The Marrow of Tradition



      • Frances Richardson Keller o [Chesnutt's Parents]


      • To Walter Hines Page, Nov. 11, 1898
      • To Walter Hines Page, Mar. 22, 1899
      • To Booker T. Washington, Oct. 8, 1901
      • To Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Oct. 26, 1901
      • From Booker T. Washington, Oct. 28, 1901
      • To Booker T. Washington, Nov. 16, 1901
      • To Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Dec. 30, 1901
      • To William Monroe Trotter [Jan. 1902]
      • From W. E. B. Du Bois to Houghton Mifflin, Mar. 8, 1902
      • To Mrs. W. B. Henderson, Nov. 11, 1905


      • Charles W. Chesnutt o [Plot Notes]
      • Sample Pages from Chesnutt's Hand-Corrected Proof Sheets of The Marrow of Tradition


      • From The Courts and the Negro
      • From What Is a White Man?
      • The White and the Black
      • The Disfranchisement of the Negro


      • Rebecca Latimer Felton, Alexander L. Manly, and the Daily Record Editorial
      • John E. Talmadge o [Biographical Sketch of Mrs. Felton]
      • Rebecca Latimer Felton o Mrs. Felton Speaks
      • Biographical Sketch of Alex Manly
      • Alex Manly o Editorial
      • From Cause of Carolina Riots
      • The North Carolina Race Conflict
      • From Takes Mrs. Felton to Task for Speech
      • Mrs. W. H. Felton's Reply to Dr. Hawthorne's Attack
      • Nov. 10, 1898: A Day of Blood
      • North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources o Wilmington Race Riot Draft Report
      • 1898 Wilmington Riot Commission o Findings
      • Hell Jolted Loose
      • White Declaration of Independence
      • Negro Rule Ended, Washington Post (Nov. 11, 1898)
      • The Riot at Wilmington, Washington Post (Nov. 22, 1898)
      • A Forgotten Issue, Boston Globe (Nov. 20, 1898)
      • Is It Negro Rule? Independent (Nov. 24, 1898)
      • The South and Negro Suffrage, New-York Tribune (Nov. 25, 1898)
      • Portrait of Alfred Moore Waddell
      • Alfred Moore Waddell o The Story of the Wilmington, N.C., Race Riot, Collier's Weekly (Nov. 26, 1898)
      • Black Side of the Race Issue, Washington Post (Dec. 4, 1898)
      • The Wilmington Riot, Cleveland Gazette (Dec. 10, 1898)
      • Letter by a Negro Woman to President William McKinley (Nov. 13, 1898)
      • African Americans Killed or Wounded
      • Men Banished from Wilmington during and after the November 10 Violence
      • The Wilmington Riot, Chesnutt's Relatives, and African American Fiction
      • Sylvia Lyons Render o [Violence]
      • Richard Yarborough o Violence, Manhood, and Black Heroism


      • Sheet Music from the 1890s
      • Dusky Dinah: Cake-Walk and Patrol
      • Sambo at the Cake Walk
      • Remus Takes the Cake
      • Way Down South: Characteristic March, Cake-Walk and Two-Step
      • Cakewalk in the Contemporary Press
      • A Negro Festival, New-York Tribune (July 20, 1870)
      • A Cake Walk, San Francisco Chronicle (Oct. 6, 1873)
      • H. S. Keller o The Cake Walk," Puck (Sept. 7, 1887)
      • They Walked for a Cake and Glory, Chicago Daily Tribune (Feb. 18, 1892)
      • The Cake Walk, New York Times (Feb. 18, 1892)
      • Took the Cake, Boston Globe (Aug. 23, 1892)



      • The Race Question in Fiction, The Sunday Herald [Boston] (Oct. 27, 1901)
      • Hamilton Wright Mabie o The New Books, The Outlook (Nov. 16, 1901)
      • Our Holiday Book Table, Zion's Herald (Dec. 4, 1901)
      • Mr. Chesnutt's Marrow of Tradition, New York Times (Dec. 7, 1901)
      • A New Uncle Tom's Cabin, St. Paul Dispatch (Dec. 14, 1901)
      • Katherine Glover o News in the World of Books, Atlanta Journal (Dec. 14, 1901)
      • Charles Alexander o Our Journalist and Literary Folks, The Freeman [Indianapolis] (Dec. 28, 1901)
      • Mr. Chesnutt and the Negro Problem, Newark Sunday News. (Dec. 29, 1901)
      • A. E. H. o Fiction, The Chautauquan (Dec. 1901)
      • William Dean Howells o From A Psychological Counter-Current in Recent Fiction, North American Review (Dec. 1901)
      • T. Thomas Fortune o Note and Comment, The New York Age (July 20, 1905)
      • Sterling A. Brown, Arthur P. Davis, and Ulysses Lee o [Racial Conflict in Fiction]


      • Sylvia Lyons Render o From Charles W. Chesnutt
      • William L. Andrews o From The Literary Career of Charles W. Chesnutt


      • John Edgar Wideman o Charles W. Chesnutt: The Marrow of Tradition
      • P. Jay Delmar o Character and Structure in The Marrow of Tradition
      • Ernestine Williams Pickens o White Supremacy and Southern Reform
      • Samina Najmi o From Janet, Polly, and Olivia: Constructs of Blackness and White Femininity in The Marrow of Tradition


      • Marjorie George and Richard S. Pressman o From Confronting the Shadow: Psycho-Political Repression in The Marrow of Tradition
      • Ryan Jay Friedman o From "Between Absorption and Extinction": Charles Chesnutt and Biopolitical Racism


      • U.S. Supreme Court o Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U. S. 537 (1896)
      • Brook Thomas o The Legal Argument of Charles W. Chesnutt's Novels


      • Joyce Pettis o The Literary Imagination and the Historic Event: Chesnutt's Use of History in The Marrow of Tradition
      • Jae H. Roe o From Keeping an "Old Wound" Alive: The Marrow of Tradition and the Legacy of Wilmington
      • Eric Sundquist o From Charles Chesnutt's Cakewalk


      • Ryan Simmons o From Simple and Complex Discourse in The Marrow of Tradition
      • Stephen P. Knadler o From Untragic Mulatto: Charles Chesnutt and the Discourse of Whiteness
      • Bryan Wagner o Charles Chesnutt and the Epistemology of Racial Violence

    Charles W. Chesnutt: A Chronology
    Selected Bibliography