North Carolina flora © Author Adventures

Charles Chesnutt, Author, Scholar, Educator

Black writer Charles Chesnutt (1858-1932) was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but his family returned to the South after the Civil War to run a family-owned grocery store. He grew up reading voraciously and observing the community through the store over the years. As an adult, he became a teacher in the Fayetteville area, among other areas in North Carolina and South Carolina. He also learned several languages. In time, he passed the bar and became a school principal, a scholar, and a writer. He is most thought of as a pioneer of the subject of social justice, having published many stories that focused on race relations of his era.

His Novels

Chesnutt’s novels include The Conjure Woman (1899), The House Behind the Cedars (1900), and The Marrow of Tradition (1901). He also wrote The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line (1889). Some of his writing was published in Atlantic Monthly, the most prestigious literary magazine of the day. Read about its editor here: Thomas Bailey Aldrich.

His Long-time Church

According to the Library of America website (, in 1881, Charles Chestnutt was the superintendent in charge of the Sunday School program, organist, and choirmaster at the Evans Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church in Fayetteville. The church has the distinction of being known as the second oldest A.M.E. church in America and continues to welcome the worship community today. It is located at 301 North Cool Spring. Fayetteville is also home to many military families and has an exponentially growing population that is a farcry from the approximately 5,000 residents during Chesnutt’s day.

“The workings of the human heart are the profoundest mystery of the universe. One moment they make us despair of our kind, and the next we see in them the reflection of the divine image.” — Charles Chesnutt

On the Path

Evans Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church in Fayetteville is the second stop on our North Carolina Author Adventures Trail.

Patricia Smart