February and Friendship

In honor of Black History Month, allow me to share a few words I wrote a long time ago about friendship and prejudice from a lesser known but important author of the late 19th and early 20th centuries:
In itself, prejudice is an obstacle which few people can surmount. As an intellectual, set apart from the majority of his social contacts simply because of his interests, Chesnutt experienced another sense of isolation in his unfulfilled need for intimacy. In his journal he states:
“I hear colored men speak of their ‘white friends.’ I have no white friends. I could not degrade the sacred name of ‘friendship’ by associating it with any man who feels himself too good to sit at a table with me, or to sleep at the same hotel… I hope yet to have a friend. If not in this world, then in some distant eon, when men are emancipated from the grossness of flesh, and mind can seek out mind; then shall I find some kindred spirit, who will sympathize with all that is purest and best in mine, and we will cement a friendship that shall endure throughout the ages.”*

Charles W Chesnutt
Charles W Chesnutt, African American author, essayist, political activist and lawyer

*J. Noel Heermance, Charles W. Chesnutt (Hamden, Connecticut: Show String Press, 1974), p. 61
This excerpt is from my Honors Thesis, “Charles Waddell Chesnutt: Short Fiction on the Color Line”

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