To Claim One’s Soul: “The Sheriff’s Children” and the Struggle for Freedom
The interest for this paper resides in the antagonism between forging a new sense of freedom for black Southerners and preserving the white South and after the Civil War, as evidenced in Charles Chesn..
The interest for this paper resides in the antagonism between forging a new sense of freedom for black Southerners and preserving the white South and after the Civil War, as evidenced in Charles Chesnutt’s 1898 short story, “The Sheriff’s Children.” The paper addresses the distinctive views of the same concept, “freedom,” among white and black people post-Civil War. The matter of freedom is complicated by the fact that the man in charge of determining such freedom, the Sheriff, is morally and professionally conflicted about what exactly constitutes such a freedom. The family dynamics presented in the short story serve as Charles Chesnutt’s critique of the farce of freedom for black people. My project is structured to first examine the struggle of African-Americans post-Civil War as documented by Frederick Douglass, whose words are then juxtaposed with the writings of conservative Southerner E. W. Gilliam and then applied to the character of Tom. I then return to the words of E. W. Gilliam and Daniel Chamberlain as I discuss the fears of white Southerners. Finally, I speak about the similarities between the conflicted sheriff and the opinions of many leaders of the Reconstruction Era.