Teaching The Quarry in Context

Chapter IX

“Mrs. Glover was a dreamer. Like Savonarola and Joan of Arc she had prophetic visions.  Whether a dreamer is a visionary or prophet is determined by the future. St. Paul was a prophet; his dream of a great church came true. John Brown was a visionary- his scheme for freeing the slaves failed and, like Jesus, Savonarola, Joan of Arc and all “the noble army of martyrs,” he died for his dream. “ (p. 61)

“She had been brought up in Oberlin, had attended the college there for two years, before she married Dr. Glover, and was fairly well-educated. She read whatever she could on the subject of the Negro in history. She subscribed to the current Negro periodicals and bought every new book that was written by a colored man or woman….When a certain mulatto writer published a book in which he postulated the inferiority of the Negro and the degeneracy of mixed blood and claimed to prove it by the time-worn arguments of failure and inadequacy of achievement, she was furiously indignant, wrote a letter to the author in which she stated her opinion of him in no uncertain language and another to the publishers, in which she expressed her surprise and grief that so old and honorable a house should lend itself to the defamation of an oppressed and struggling people;” (p. 62).

The book Chesnutt refers to is The American Negro by William Hannibal Thomas. Like Mrs. Glover, Chesnutt wrote to the publishers, Macmillan Publishing, expressing his distain of Thomas’s book.  Read excerpts from the correspondence between Chesnutt and Macmillan in, To Be an Author”: Letters of Charles W. Chesnutt, 1889-1905. Edited by Joseph R. McElrath Jr., & Robert C. Leitz, III.
“Of these leaders the most conspicuous of one of the day would attain the desired by emphasizing the more elementary social virtues—industry, patience, application to the simpler forms of labor—agricultural and the trades, “casting down their buckets where they were,” and building up the South, or in whatever environment fate had placed them, a community within a community, “separate as the fingers but one as the hand”…. (p. 65)
Chesnutt is referring to Booker T. Washington and Washington’s controversial Atlanta Compromise.
“The other, the idealist, buckled on this armor, graped his swird and set otut to slaly with the weapons of knowledge and reason and ridicule and sarcasm the flaing fragon re race prejudice.That cynics might sneer and declare that he was merely a futile Don Quixote tilting at windmills did not disturb him nor deflect him in the least from his steadfast purpose.”  (p. 66)
Chesnutt is referring to W.E.B. DuBois. For more information on Chesnutt’s friendship with both men, see Part One.
“In French he was less fortunate. There were no Frenchmen that he knew of in the city, and he would have had a very nebulous notion of spoken French had it not been for an Alsatian Jew, a Professor Adolph Neuman, who came to the city and opened classes in French and German for the white young people. At Donald’s request, Mrs. Glover sought out Professor Neuman and engaged him to give her boy lessons” (p. 67).
According to Chesnutt’s Journals the fictional character of Adolph Neuman is based on his French and German instructor, Professor Emil Neufeld in Fayetteville, South Carolina.
“Latin, on the other hand, he simply ate up, so to speak.  When he had learned enough of the language to begin to read it, someone gave him an old copy of Anthon’s edition of the Aeneid with its copious notes and commentaries, and in six weeks, during a summer vacation, he read the whole twelve books of Virgil’s masterpiece- twice as much as demanded in most college courses in a year.” (p. 68)

“These were not numerous, but there had sifted down into the Negro homes, from the libraries of white people, some of the classics of literature. The high school had a copy of an old edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica, which some visiting Northerner had presented to it. From this he read the articles of Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Schopenhauer, Bacon, Rousseau, Goethe, Spencer, Mill and Comte.  Among the books of the Reverend Ebenezer M. Jones, his pastor, he found Josiah Royce’s Philosophy, Paley’s Evidences of Christianity and Drummond’s  Natural Law in the Spiritual World.”

“He would give the pharmacist a list of books he wanted, and the pharmacist would draw them in his own name and turn them over to Donald.  Works on evolution were carefully excluded from the library, but he ordered through the local bookstore Darwin’s Descent of Man and Origin of the Species.  He did not learn of Frazer’s Golden Bough until he went to college.” (p. 69)


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Charles Chesnutt in the Classroom by Adrienne Johnson Gosselin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.