Chester Himes was an internationally acclaimed African American writer who created a violent and cynical picture of the black experience in America by writing about his encounters with racism. In 1928, when Chester Himes was nineteen, he was chained upside down, beaten by police until he confessed to an armed robbery, sentenced for 20 to 25 years, and incarcerated in the Ohio State Penitentiary. By the time he was paroled in 1936, he had become a nationally known writer publishing stories in the African-American periodicals and Esquire. His novels, short stories and screenplays were mostly about black protagonists doomed by white racism and hate. By the 1950's Himes had decided to settle in France permanently, a country he liked in part due to his critical popularity there. Living among other expatriate writers that included James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright, he published a series of black detective novels set in Harlem in the '50's and '60's that established Chester Himes' international reputation as an author and literary equal of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
Ralph Ellison was an African-American writer and essayist, who's only novel, Invisible Man gained widespread critical success. Ellison's ambitious journey from a childhood of hardship and poverty to celebrated African American writer is chronicled through exclusive interviews and personal recollection. Invisible Man (1952) addresses issues pertinent to Black society and identity in the 1950's by using the protagonist's desire and determination to be visible as a metaphor for the entire African American community's struggle to be recognized in a world of prejudice and hostility. He remarked that "Literature is Colorblind", using racial issues as a means to express the universal dilemmas of identity and self-discovery. Despite the social and political boundaries in place during the 1950's for a black man with no formal education, Ellison has been compared to such writers as Melville and Hawthorne. 24 minutes of Bonus material for each program.
Part of the Black American Experience: African Americans Who Left their Stamp on History DVD Series. Grades 8-12/University. 46 minutes on DVD.
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