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Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South
by Winfred Rembert with Erin I. Kelly

Publication Date:
List Price: $30.00
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Classification: Nonfiction
ISBN13: 9781635576597
Imprint: Bloomsbury Press
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Parent Company: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
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Book Description:

Photo of Patsy Rembert at TuskegeePatsy Rembert at Tuskegee
Patsy Gammage and Winfred Rembert met in 1970 while Rembert was in prison and doing forced labor near her home in Turner County, GA. After four years of letter-writing, the two married upon his release and moved north, settling in New Haven, CT, where they raised eight children and Mrs. Rembert became a longtime youth advocate. It was Patsy who first convinced her husband to pursue art seriously, and to tell his life story visually, using the leather-tooling skills he’d learned in prison. Now Winfred’s widow, Patsy is central to the journey that became Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South.

“A compelling and important history that this nation desperately needs to hear.” —Bryan Stevenson, AALBC 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.

“Rembert’s art expresses the legacy of slavery, the trauma of lynching, and the anguish of racial hierarchy and white supremacy while illuminating a resolve to fight oppression and injustice. He has the ability to reveal truths about the human struggle that are transcendent, to evoke an understanding of human dignity that is broad and universal.” —Bryan Stevenson, New York Times bestselling author of JUST MERCY and founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative

“At turns harrowing and haunting, Chasing Me to My Grave is a testament to the rich cultural resources and the poetry of Black Southern life. Rembert’s paintings, brilliantly composed, kinetic, and enchanting, are interspersed through his reflections about life in the cotton and carceral South. The language is elegant and vernacular, his observations are insightful and poignant. And through it all, joy, no matter how elusive, never disappears.” —Imani Perry, Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University

Chasing Me to My Gravee is both a literary and artistic triumph. Winfred Rembert’s memoir of the carceral state in the Jim Crow South is a profoundly moving, devastatingly painful, and wonderfully transformative experience. Rembert’s earthy prose, evocative images, and grace in the face of racial oppression is an inspiring true story that will forever change the way we look at the system of mass incarceration and unequal justice and those who resisted with love, beauty, and artistic brilliance. This book is a must read for all who are interested in finding out the roots of our current racial crisis as well as the possibilities for truth, justice, and healing.” —Peniel E. Joseph

Chasing Me to My Grave is a brilliant reminder of where we’ve come from as a country. We’ve come to accept William Faulkner’s adage, ’The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ But Rembert’s account reminds us that it is in the remembering of the past that we keep it from becoming prologue. From the Jim Crow South to the chain gang to a life as an artist, Rembert reminds us of the terror and the possibility of America. That he became an artist while in prison says something about the gifts we bury, that he lived to tell this harrowing tale says something about the strength of this man.” —Reginald Dwayne Betts



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