Reviews for Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artists Memoir of the Jim Crow South

by Winfred Rembert

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The late Black artist tells his life story via his words and powerful works of visual art. Rembert (1945-2021) was raised by a great aunt in rural Georgia, and he spent his childhood working with her in the cotton fields. In the 1960s, he participated in the civil rights movement, and, after one violent crackdown at a protest, stole a car to flee two White men chasing him with shotguns. Soon arrested and stuck in jail for nearly two years awaiting trial, he escaped, only to be caught that night by a violent White mob. Hung by his feet in a tree, "bleeding like a hog,” he survived being "almost lynched.” With new charges from having escaped and stolen the sheriff’s gun, he was given a 27-year term in state prison. Rembert survived the grueling hard labor and mental cruelty of a chain gang, and he was released after serving seven years. In prison, he learned how to tool and dye leather, and at 51 was compelled "to do pictures of what was done to me.” His visceral works illustrate his days picking cotton, dancing in juke joints, enduring the brutality of the chain gang, and reckoning with the "everyday lie" of White supremacy. Rembert’s wife, Patsy, saw his art's power and worth clearly: "Nobody tells their life story on leather." In 2000, curator Jock Reynolds gave Rembert a show at the Yale University Art Gallery, and national exhibitions followed as well as two documentaries on his life and work. "My pictures are about how Black people were treated and how they lived," writes the author, and the book is abundantly illustrated with four-color representations of his art. The oral history, as told to co-author Kelly, is thoughtful and honest, and Patsy's chapter, told in her own words, is also frank and compelling. Readers should note that the N-word appears more than 70 times in the text, which is deliberate: “I want the reader to understand the effect it carries when you use that word and how degrading it is.” Bryan Stevenson provides the foreword. An ultimately uplifting journey from the ugliness of virulent racism to the beauty of art. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.