While Charles W. Chesnutt's interactions with the mainstream publishing industry have been a frequent topic of criticism, scholars have rarely considered how this publishing apparatus manifests in the marketing, distribution, and sale of Chesnutt's books. This essay examines Chesnutt’s relationship with Houghton, Mifflin and Company through the production of materials that framed and promoted Chesnutt’s writing at the height of his literary career. In particular, it considers how advertisements and marketing materials were designed as a racialized paratext that would influence the sale and popular reception of Chesnutt’s literary work. Drawing on a range of archival sources, including Houghton Mifflin Company records, the essay tracks evolving strategies and abrupt shifts in the representation of Chesnutt's racial identity as he and his publisher sought to accommodate popular literary tastes. Yet, despite substantial investment from Houghton Mifflin, particularly to advertise The Marrow of Tradition (1901), the reception of Chesnutt's writing shows that the literary marketplace at the turn of the century was unreceptive to any critical discussion of white supremacism. The essay argues that Houghton Mifflin’s publication of Chesnutt was a surprisingly creative yet commercially unsuccessful experiment to market anti-racist fiction within the realm of genteel literary culture.

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