WINNER OF THE 2022 PULITZER PRIZE IN BIOGRAPHY
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.
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.