Last Updated on March 17, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 319
The Conjure Woman is a collection of short stories written by black author Charles W. Chesnutt. Published in 1899, the stories are reflective of their time period and the magical folklore that survived through the stories of enslaved African Americans (and later their free descendants) throughout the American South. The stories are told by a cunning older black man who uses tales of bewitchment to maintain control over an old vineyard plantation that a yankee white couple purchases shortly after the end of the Civil War.
The man, Uncle Julius—who was formerly enslaved on the plantation—was finally able to use the land and buildings on the plantation for his own purposes after the war ended. When the white couple purchase the vineyard, Uncle Julius begins telling them that the vineyard is bewitched and, later, that most everything else on the property is bewitched as well. While Uncle Julius can be written off as an old, superstitious man, through the telling of these chilling tales, he is actually cleverly making sure that he doesn't, once again, lose his sense of control over his life or the land that he lives on to the new white couple.
While many of the tales end in tragedy or further hardships for the slaves, they John and Annie wary of befalling the same fate as the characters in the stories. Uncle Julius is able to continue using his vineyard by telling the couple a tale about slaves who died within a year of eating the grapes. He is able to keep harvesting honey from a tree by convincing the husband not to clear the land, explaining that the land is bewitched.
In most of the stories, the bewitching is done by an old conjure woman named Aunt Peggy. The conjuring often was used by Aunt Peggy to help other African Americans, and yet, white masters often ended up turning the conjuring into tragedy.