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Passing in the Works of Charles W. Chesnutt$
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Susan Prothro Wright and Ernestine Pickens Glass

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9781604734164

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781604734164.001.0001

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“They Were All Colored to the Life”

“They Were All Colored to the Life”

Historicizing “Whiteness” in Evelyn’s Husband

(p.110) “They Were All Colored to the Life”
Passing in the Works of Charles W. Chesnutt

Scott Thomas Gibson

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter illustrates how the issue of race is an inextricable component of Chesnutt’s writing and of American literature in general, as a result of the deeply ingrained racist legacy of the United States. Part of the failure among critics to recognize the pervasiveness of racial discourse has been the neglect of “whiteness” itself as a racial category, remaining complicit with its assumption of “universal” appeal. Recent interpretations of Chesnutt’s work have drawn attention to his depiction of “whiteness,” but they have also been limited by a theoretical lens contoured by the same distinction between nonracial “whiteness” and “racial” blackness that Chesnutt’s white editors used to exclude his work from publication.

Keywords:   race, American literature, racist legacy, United States, racial discourse, racial category, universal appeal

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