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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Hampton Negro Conference. Number III. July 1899.
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easily among the first of his competitors taking rank in the world of fiction as a portrayer of Negro life and character. Chestnutt follows in the same line. There may be others.
And here we pause to see what these have added to our literature, what new artistic value they have discovered. Dunbar and Chestnutt have followed closely the "suffering side" the portrayal of the old fashioned Negro of "befo' de wah."--the Negro that Page and Harris and others have given a permanent place in literature. But they have done one thing more; they have presented the facts of Negro life with a thread running through both warp and woof that shows not only humour and pathos, humility, self-sacrifice, courtesy and loyalty, but something at times of the higher aims, ambition, desires, hopes and aspiration of the race--but by no means as fully and to as great an extent as we had hoped they would do.
The Negro has entered the field of fiction as portrayer as well as portrayed, to remain we are sure; to make an honored name for himself and race we trust. It is in his power to do so. Belonging himself to one of the "dispised races," he will naturally be better able to depict the feelings and ambitions of this "brother in black," and to represent him more truly in accordance with the facts in the case. He knows from his own consciousness what the situation must necessarily be under the circumstances, and if he is true to nature and to himself, he cannot fail.
The Negro possesses an exuberant imagination; he is a natural story teller. Witness Uncle Remus. He has stood close to nature and she has communed with him as confidently as Kipling's "Mowgli." One great Negro writer of fiction has stirred the world--Dumas pere; and Dumas fils has not been far behind. The artistic merit that is claimed for the Negro as the portrayed is shown as well in the work that comes from his hand as the portrayer.
But there are dangers lurking in the efforts being put forth by the black novelist,--dangers that have overtaken many writers of the white race. One of these is that in the desire to shine in too many spheres, and in the elation of creation, the real bent of genius may be forced out of its natural order and development; forces may be scattered and literary strength diffused. Some one line well followed is best for all concerned. Another danger is that of degenerating into a writer of "pot-boilers," turning off this and that for the money that is in it, leaving crudities
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