He Held Up A Mirror Of Truth On Racism

Chester Himes
Leslie Taylor-Grover
June 26, 2020

Chester Himes was not “supposed” to be in prison. He’d come from a well-to-do family. What went wrong?

Himes had been an unhappy child, especially after an accident blinded his brother and racist hospitals refused to help. At home, his parents’ violent fights about why his father was too dark-skinned to be successful rang in his ears. 

He found a job - but things took a turn for the worse.

He fell down an elevator shaft, after dealing with racist white coworkers who hated that he worked there in the first place. 

Himes was put on disability payments and enrolled in Ohio State with the money, but was expelled after pulling a prank. With no degree and an unhappy home life, he turned to the streets.

His activities escalated until he was captured, beaten by police until he confessed to a robbery, and sentenced to 25 years.

Desperate to express his struggle, he decided to write - about pain, violence, and self-hate among Black people, without flinching. And then, finally, something good happened.

He was freed early. Himes kept writing, never watering down his voice. He found great success, with his novels defining the crime fiction genre.

Like Himes, we must tell our stories authentically - our liberation lies in raising our voices to speak the TRUTH!

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