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Charles Chesnutt’s ‘Dave’s Neckliss’ and the Curse of Ham
American Literary Realism (2009)
  • John Swift, Occidental College
  • Gigen Mammoser, Occidental College

Charles Chesnutt’s 1889 short story “Dave’s Neckliss” has long been recognized as the darkest of his apparently humorous “Uncle Julius” plantation sketches. This essay argues that in it Chesnutt uses an allegorical representation of the well-known “curse of Ham” (Genesis 9:18-27) in a caustic critique of slavery and its hypocritical white Christian apologists. Moreover, the narrative’s conclusion reveals Chesnutt’s anxiety over the post-Reconstruction reclaiming by black churches of Hamitic identity, a move that suggested to him a voluntary, self-destructive re-assumption of slavery’s chains.

Publication Date
Fall 2009
Citation Information
John Swift and Gigen Mammoser. "Charles Chesnutt’s ‘Dave’s Neckliss’ and the Curse of Ham" American Literary Realism Vol. 42 Iss. 1 (2009)
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