Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South
Winfred Rembert, as Told to Erin I Kelly. Bloomsbury, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-1-6355-7659-7
In this posthumous work, artist Rembert (1945–2021) offers a powerful, unfiltered look at life growing up in Jim Crow Georgia. “This was a time when everybody was above the law—if you were White... they just made up their mind about what they wanted to do with you and that’s what they did,” he recalls of his childhood growing up with his great-aunt. Even from a young age, Rembert was exposed to murders, mutilations, and humiliations designed to break and degrade the Black residents in his town. His artwork vividly showcases harrowing moments in his life, from picking cotton in endless fields to the horrors of being on a chain gang in prison for stealing a car (to escape a “White mob”). Especially graphic is his account of narrowly surviving his own lynching: “They hung me up by my feet in a tree... and stuck me with the knife... I was bleeding like a hog.” Despite his incredible hardships, Rembert highlights the beauty he encountered, such as the kindness of strangers and his wife, Patsy, who encouraged him to “turn my stories into art.” This is a stunning portrait of hope in the face of evil, barbarity, and racism. Agent: Stephanie Steiker, Regal Hoffman & Assoc. (Aug.)
Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated where the author grew up.
Reviewed on: 05/10/2021