1. How did some African Americans create personal and group identity after emancipation?
2. How did the challenge to do so differ for those who were previously enslaved and those who were not?
3. What “institutions” did they established to help them transition to “new” lives?
4. What part(s) of their past did they claim? Did they deny anything?
Use file attached to complete questions. Questions are to be answered in 1-2 sentences each. No big use of vocabulary words. No citations are needed for questions.
Charles W. Chesnutt
The Wife of His Youth
The Wife of His Youth
And Other Stories of the Color Line
originally published in Atlantic Monthly, July 1898
M R. RYDER was going to give a ball. There were several reasons why this was an opportune time for such an event. Mr. Ryder might aptly be called the dean of the Blue Veins. The original Blue Veins
were a little society of colored persons organized in a certain Northern city shortly after the war. Its
purpose was to establish and maintain correct social standards among a people whose social condition
presented almost unlimited room for improvement. By accident, combined perhaps with some natural
affinity, the society consisted of individuals who were, generally speaking, more white than black.
Some envious outsider made the suggestion that no one was eligible for membership who was not
white enough to show blue veins. The suggestion was readily adopted by those who were not of the
favored few, and since that time the society, though possessing a longer and more pretentious name,
had been known far and wide as the “Blue Vein Society,” and its members as the “Blue Veins.”
The Blue Veins did not allow that any such requirement existed for admission to their circle, but,
on the contrary, declared that character and culture were the only things considered; and that if most of
their members were light-colored, it was because such persons, as a rule, had had better opportunities
to qualify themselves for membership. Opinions differed, too, as to the usefulness of the society. There
were those who had been known to assail it violently as a glaring example of the very prejudice from
which the colored race had suffered most; and later, when such critics had succeeded in getting on the
inside, they had been heard to maintain with zeal and earnestness that the society was a life-boat, an
anchor, a bulwark and a shield, a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, to guide their people
*Presented by the National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, NC. 2005.
through the social wilderness. Another alleged prerequisite for Blue Vein membership was that of free
birth; and while there was really no such requirement, it is doubtless true that very few of the members
would have been unable to meet it if there had been. If there were one or two of the older members
who had come up from the South and from slavery, their history presented enough romantic
circumstances to rob their servile origin of its grosser aspects.
While there were no such tests of eligibility, it is true that the Blue Veins had their notions on these
subjects, and that not all of them were equally liberal in regard to the things they collectively
disclaimed. Mr. Ryder was one of the most conservative. Though he had not been among the founders
of the society, but had come in some ye
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