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The Colonel's Dream

By: Charles Chesnutt

The Colonel's Dream is a novel written by the African-American author Charles W. Chesnutt. The novel is published by Doubleday, Page, & Co. in 1905. The Colonel's Dream portrays the continuing oppression and racial violence prominent in the Southern United States after the American Civil War. The Colonel's Dream concerns Colonel Henry French and his attempt to refine Clarendon, North Carolina, the southern city in which he grew up, into a racially and socially equal society from the strictly segregationist ways of its past.

The novel begins with Colonel Henry French and his partners selling their company, making the colonel financially independent. He decides to head back south with his son, Phil. He intends to stay for only a couple of months, but once he arrives, he remembers with nostalgia the landscape, the building structures, and his youth in his hometown. He runs into his old slave, Peter French, who is finding it difficult to make a living due to his skin color and age under the post-war conditions.

During his stay, the Colonel sees continuing economic isolation and repression of the black population and is bothered by the racism that is still very prominent in Clarendon. The editor of the local newspaper talked to him about Clarendon having "so many idle, ignorant Negroes that something must be done to make them work, or else they'll steal, and to keep them in their place, or they would run over us".

It became evident to the Colonel that there was a racial problem in Clarendon. When the Colonel visits a black school, he hears from a black school teacher, Mr. Henry Taylor, how unfairly the school system treats blacks by segregation and difference in condition of the schools. Behind most of this wrongdoing is William Fetters, a convict labor contractor in Clarendon who influences most affairs in the town. The Colonel takes on the injustice of Fetters and tries to change Clarendon into a more socially equal town.


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Charles Chesnutt

United States

Charles Waddell Chesnutt was an African-American author, essayist, political activist and lawyer, best known for his novels and short stories exploring complex issues of racial and social identity in...

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