Friday, January 15, 2010

The Bouquet

Charles W. Chesnutt (1858–1932)
From Charles W. Chesnutt: Stories, Novels, and Essays

This selection has been reposted with a newly researched and more detailed introduction here.

Through his novels and stories, Charles Chesnutt spoke out against disfranchisement, lynching, and the legal underpinnings of segregation, and he often tackled the twin issues of miscegenation and "passing” by featuring characters who, in fact or deed, blurred the irregular boundaries between white and black. He also depicted the hopes and dreams of those freed after the Civil War: “The chattel aspired to own property; the slave, forbidden learning, to educate his children,” as he wrote in his story “The Doll.” This esteem for education is at the center of “The Bouquet” (1899), in which a young girl struggles against the obstacles imposed by a racially divided society to fulfill the wish of a venerated white schoolteacher.

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Mary Myrover’s friends were somewhat surprised when she began to teach a colored school. . . . If you don't see the full story below, click here (PDF) or click here (Google Docs) to read it—free!

This selection may be photocopied and distributed for classroom or educational use.