Why I Left America, and Other Essays

Why I Left America, and Other Essays

Why I Left America, and Other Essays

Why I Left America, and Other Essays

Excerpt

In the books about and the memoirs of Richard Wright, Chester Himes, and the other African-American artists and intellectuals who exiled themselves to Paris after World War II, the name of Ollie Harrington appears frequently, but he is always somewhere there in the background. In his autobiography, My Life of Absurdity, Chester Himes identifies him as his "best friend," "the best raconteur I'd ever known," and the "accepted leader for all the blacks of the Quarter, who in turn attracted all the black Americans in the city. It was really Ollie who singlehandedly made the Café Tournon famous in the world."

Michel Fabre, in The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright, described Harrington as a "war correspondent, . . . a former NAACP public relations officer, and a well-known cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Courier." In Richard Wright: Ordeal of a Native Son, Addison Gayle noted that when "Ollie Harrington, a onetime war correspondent and cartoonist . . . arrived at the American colony, Wright gained his most faithful and lasting friend." Margaret Walker identified him as "perhaps Wright's closest friend and confidante in Europe." When a writer for Esquire magazine set out in 1965 to find out what had happened to the "hipsters" of the 1950s, he was told to try to find Harrington, "the last hipster of them all."

Despite these numerous references, Harrington has seldom been discussed in any detail, and he has remained a kind of . . .

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