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“The Stolen Voice”

“The Stolen Voice”

Charles Chesnutt, Whiteness, and the Politics of Folklore

(p.127) 5 “The Stolen Voice”
Black Folklore and the Politics of Racial Representation
Shirley Moody-Turner
University Press of Mississippi

Chapter five details how Charles Chesnutt, in The Conjure Woman (1899), experimented with African American folklore, especially conjure and ritual, as a way to critique the existing epistemological approaches to understanding black culture and black history, and later, in The Colonel’s Dream (1905) turned his attention to exposing the white-supremacist forms of folklore that worked to reinforce existing structures of race relations. In addition to examining how Chesnutt posited black folklore as an alternative way of constructing, perceiving, and responding to current and historical realities, the chapter also introduces the Chesnutt’s The Colonel’s Dream (1905) as a novel that painstakingly unravels the conflicting fictions of folklore and race by exposing the customary politics of race relations that defined both whiteness, as well as his white characters’ attitudes about race, African Americans, and themselves.

Keywords:   Charles Chesnutt, Whiteness, African American folklore, Conjure, Colonel’s Dream

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