The Colonel's Dream was recently re-released by Harlem Moon as a classic novel. The introduction by Ismael Reed provides a historical account of the author, Charles W. Chesnutt.
The accomplishments of this author at a time in American history when the black struggle for equality was so prevalent
are impressive. His courage and concepts were certainly ahead of his time, and the world was slow to recognize this author’s contributions to society.
In this tale, a man raised in the
Southern states leaves to make his fortune in the North and returns to his homeland only to discover that racism and slavery (through a crooked court system) continue in his hometown. Shame for his hometown and the love for several of its inhabitants spark inspiration in Mr. “Colonel” French, and he begins to change the face of the town through developing new educational opportunities and employment. Unfortunately, the Colonel ruffles too many feathers, and the atmosphere of the small town is becoming tense. The loss of his only child finally breaks him of this dream, and in the end he leaves disheartened and alone, for his fiancée will not leave her dependent family behind.
This is a sad story, yet also an encouraging one, as readers see how one man can spark immense change in a town resistant to
it. The Colonel's Dream closes with several study questions that will have readers looking at slavery, the struggle of the
black people, the challenges encountered by white people in the face of change, and a closer inspection of specific characters and what they might represent.
This tale is educational and entertaining. It was an honor to review The Colonel's Dream – a wonderful novel by one of America’s classic writers.