The Conjure Woman

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First edition cover, 1899

The Conjure Woman is an 1899 collection of short stories by American writer Charles W. Chesnutt. It is Chesnutt's first book, and an important work of African American literature. The seven stories deal with the racial issues facing the South after the war, often through the comments of the character of Uncle Julius McAdoo. A freed slave, he tells the stories to John and Annie, a white couple from the North, who are visiting in their search for property, as they are thinking of moving south (because of Annie's health) and of buying an old plantation in "Patesville", North Carolina.

Uncle Julius's stories are derived from African-American folk tales and include many supernatural occurrences built around hoodoo conjuring traditions. They are less idealistic and romanticized than John's understanding of Southern culture. They tell of black resistance to and revenge against white culture.[1]

The stories' basis in folk traditions earned publication of the collection. Chesnutt had originally submitted a proposed collection that included only two or three conjure tales, but the editors felt that these were the best and most innovative part of the collection. They asked him to write more in order to have enough for a full book.[2]

The book was adapted by Oscar Micheaux as a silent film released as The Conjure Woman in 1926.


  1. ^ Kirkpatrick, Mary Alice (2004). "Summary of The Conjure Woman". Documenting the American South. UNC Chapel Hill University Library. Retrieved 3 April 2011. 
  2. ^ "Note on the Texts". The Library of America online. Literary Classics of the United States. 2001. Retrieved 3 April 2011. 

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