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Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist's Memoir of the Jim Crow South (Pulitzer Prize Winner)

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Notes From Black Reads

A uniquely vivid memoir combining a powerful narrative with eye-popping art, tracing the arc of a life that stretches from Jim Crow Georgia to Atlanta’s High Museum of Art. Winfred Rembert’s telling of his long journey through poverty, prison, and a near-miss death at the hands of a mob, finding his way through love to truthful witness is raw, exultant and riveting. The presence of a bracing spirit resonates on every page. If you love deep storytelling, history and great art, do not miss out!


Booklist #1 Nonfiction Book of the Year * African American Literary Book Club (AALBC) #1 Nonfiction Bestseller * Named a Best Book of the Year by: NPR, Publishers Weekly, BookPage, Barnes & Noble, Hudson Booksellers, ARTnews, and more * Amazon Editors’ Pick * Carnegie Medal of Excellence in Nonfiction Longlist

"A compelling and important history that this nation desperately needs to hear." —Bryan Stevenson, New York Times bestselling author of Just Mercy and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative

Winfred Rembert grew up in a family of Georgia field laborers and joined the Civil Rights Movement as a teenager. He was arrested after fleeing a demonstration, survived a near-lynching at the hands of law enforcement, and spent seven years on chain gangs. During that time he met the undaunted Patsy, who would become his wife. Years later, at the age of fifty-one and with Patsy’s encouragement, he started drawing and painting scenes from his youth using leather tooling skills he learned in prison.

Chasing Me to My Grave presents Rembert’s breathtaking body of work alongside his story, as told to Tufts Philosopher Erin I. Kelly. Rembert calls forth vibrant scenes of Black life on Cuthbert, Georgia’s Hamilton Avenue, where he first glimpsed the possibility of a life outside the cotton field. As he pays tribute, exuberant and heartfelt, to Cuthbert’s Black community and the people, including Patsy, who helped him to find the courage to revisit a traumatic past, Rembert brings to life the promise and the danger of Civil Rights protest, the brutalities of incarceration, his search for his mother’s love, and the epic bond he found with Patsy.

Vivid, confrontational, revelatory, and complex, Chasing Me to My Grave is a searing memoir in prose and painted leather that celebrates Black life and summons readers to confront painful and urgent realities at the heart of American history and society.

ISBN-13: 9781635576597

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Publication Date: 09-07-2021

Pages: 304

Product Dimensions: 10.00(w) x 7.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Winfred Rembert (1945 - 2021) was an artist from Cuthbert, Georgia. His paintings on carved and tooled leather have been exhibited at museums and galleries across the country, and compared to the work of Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and Horace Pippin. Rembert was honored by the Equal Justice Initiative in 2015, awarded a United States Artists Barr Fellowship in 2016, and is the subject of two award-winning documentary films: All Me and Ashes to Ashes. In the last decades of his life, he lived and worked in New Haven, Connecticut. He was posthumously awarded the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for Chasing Me to My Grave. Erin I. Kelly earned her PhD from Harvard and is Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. She specializes in ethics and criminal law and is the author of The Limits of Blame: Rethinking Punishment and Responsibility (Harvard University Press, 2018). She was awarded the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for Chasing Me to My Grave.

Table of Contents

Foreword Bryan Stevenson xi

Preface xv

1 Walking to My Mother 1

2 From Cain't to Cain't 15

3 Hamilton Avenue 39

4 The Everyday Lie 65

5 Doll's Head Baseball 82

6 In Deep 91

7 A Man Don't Know What He Can Go Through 109

8 Reidsville State Prison 119

9 Finding Patsy 131

10 The Chain Gang 139

11 Out of the Ditch 149

12 Becoming a Leather Man 166

13 Bridgeport Docks and Projects 179

14 A Good, Bad Man 188

15 Patsy's Story 196

16 I Had to Scuffle 206

17 Life on Leather 215

18 A Thinking Man's Thing 228

19 Homecoming 252

20 Searching for the Riverbanks 257

Acknowledgments and Collaborator's Note 275

List of Illustrations 281