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Searching for the ghost of Charles Chesnutt

2011 March 17

This Wednesday, I was all set to watch a bunch of realitrash on DVR when, on a whim, I starting digging up information on Charles Chesnutt, an author I’m thinking about writing about this summer for my master’s essay.  

I’ve been kind of into him since I took a realism class about five years ago. He was the first African-American to be published in The Atlantic Monthly. He was born in and died in Cleveland, and, although he moved around a bit, he did most of his writing here.

Anyway, I did a search for the house he lived in until his death in 1932, and he only lived 10 minutes from my house on a street off Chester called Lamont. I had about 30 minutes until sunset, so I got in my car with my dog and headed on over.

Sadly, his house is long gone, replaced by a school, and the neighborhood needs a bit of a revival of its own. There used to be a historical marker, but according to a Cleveland historian’s blog, it was stolen a few years ago. It doesn’t look like it was ever replaced.

I find myself so drawn to the places where authors lived, wrote, died, and I wonder how important it is to retain those places. For me, it’s like the ghost of that author’s life. It’s like being able to step into the past and into the context in which their work is written. Like the writing becomes a place and not just a thing. And although it probably isn’t financially the biggest priority in the world right now, I can’t help but feel a true sense of this town when I stand in the place where the author of great words once walked.

“There’s time enough, but none to spare.” — Charles Chesnutt

2 Responses leave one →
  1. Jeannie permalink
    March 17, 2011


    • Laura permalink
      March 17, 2011

      Though it’s probably more fun to hunt Irish authors, right, Jeannie? I was just listening to the CD’s Ryan and I listened to when we were driving around Killarney last summer. So envious of your trip! Happy St. Patrick’s Day, soul sista!

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