Chesnutt Works Charles W. Chesnutt


By returning to the plantation for his family, Chesnutt -- through Grandison's character -- demonstrates why it was difficult for some slaves to leave their plantations. Not only did they run the risk of being caught and sent back to their respective owners, but they also risked losing their families forever.

On the other hand, "The Free Colored People of North Carolina" provides much needed knowledge to the reader regarding the social atmosphere in which freed men and women lived in before, during, and after the Civil War. Not only does Chesnutt provide statistical information that includes the population of whites as compared to slaves and as compared to freedmen, but he also comments on the impact that restrictive legislation had on the community and how it affected the work environment.

One of the areas that were affected by a shift in manufacturing were trades that were learned through apprenticeships. Chesnutt comments, "The general decline of the apprenticeship system which has affected black and white alike, is also in some degree responsible for the dearth of trained mechanics in the South. Even in Northern cities the finer grades of stone-cutting, bricklaying, carpentry and cabinet work, and practically all the mosaic and terra-cotta work and fine interior decorating, is done by workmen of foreign birth and training" (Chesnutt). Not only are these trades dying, but they are being overtaken by people of other nationalities, who may or may not be subjected to the same social and legal restrictions as former slaves and freedmen.

It can be argued that the legislation, social constructs, and industrial advancements that were created and established during the Reconstruction severely limited what blacks could and could not do. This, in turn, led to a dying off of specialized trades and skills that caused people to become ignorant about the history and traditions that came to be represented through apprenticeships and other specialized trades. Chesnutt argues, blacks "in large part through the operation of social forces beyond any control on their part, they have lost their hereditary employments, and these have only in part been replaced by employment in tobacco factories and in iron mines and mills" (Chesnutt).

Both "The Passing of Grandison" and "The Free Colored People of North Carolina" highlight how ignorance benefits and negatively affects the black community. While ignorance about a person's loyalties allowed them to survive and aide them in freeing their loved ones, as in the case of Grandison, ignorance has also led to the death of a culture. While providing raw materials to manufacturers in the North once fueled the slave labor system in the South, manufacturing made black workers' in the South's skills nearly obsolete. However, Chesnutt hopes that the next generation "regain these lost arts, and through them, by industry and thrift, under intelligent leadership, to win that equality of citizenship of which they are now grasping, perhaps, somewhat more than the shadow but something less than the substance" (Chesnutt).

Works Cited

Chesnutt, Charles W. "The Freed Colored People of North Carolina."

Web. 23 May 2012.

-. "The Passing of Grandison." The Literature Network.…