Modern Black American Fiction Writers

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview

Chester Himes
1909-1984

CHESTER BOMAR HIMES was bom in Jefferson City, Missouri, on July 29, 1909. His parents, Joseph and Estelle Bomar Himes, were both teachers. The family lived in several cities in the southern and midwestem United States, finally settling in Ohio. Himes graduated from Glenville High School in Cleveland in 1926 and studied for less than a year at Ohio State University before withdrawing, as his schoolwork was suffering because of his frequent carousing, gambling, and associating with pimps and criminals. In December 1928 he was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to twenty years' hard labor in the Ohio State Penitentiary.He served seven years. During his incarceration Himes wrote many works of fiction, including a story based upon a tragic fire that broke out in the prison and killed 300 men. These tales began appearing in various magazines, including such black weekly newspapers as the Atlanta World and the Baltimore Afro-American.

Some time after his release in 1936 Himes joined the Ohio Writers' Project and went on to become a feature writer for the Cleveland Daily News.He was also involved with the labor movement and the Communist party. He married Jean Johnson in 1937. In 1942 Himes moved to California, where he worked at a variety of odd jobs in shipyards in Los Angeles and San Francisco.When he received a Rosenwald Foundation Fellowship in 1944, he moved to New York City to write. His first published novel, If He Hollers Let Him Go ( 1945), is a grimly realistic tale drawing upon his shipyard experiences. His first five novels were explosive studies of the situation of the black man in a racist society. They feature a considerable amount of autobiography, such as Cast the First Stone ( 1952), a story of prison life. These novels enjoyed only moderate success in America, and brought in such a small income that Himes was forced to work at a number of menial jobs to support himself. He separated from his wife in 1951 and later divorced her. When he noticed that he was being hailed in Europe as a powerful voice of social criticism, Himes decided to emigrate. He moved

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Modern Black American Fiction Writers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Modern Black American Fiction Writers *
  • Contents *
  • User's Guide vi
  • The Life of the Author Harold Bloom vii
  • Introduction xi
  • Maya Angelou B. 1928 1
  • William Attaway 1911-1986 16
  • James Baldwin 1924-1987 29
  • Ralph Ellison 1914-1994 47
  • Chester Himes 1909-1984 64
  • John Oliver Killens 1916-1987 79
  • Paule Marshall B. 1929 93
  • Willard Motley 1909-1965 108
  • Ann Petry B. 1912 122
  • John A. Williams B. 1925 137
  • Frank Yerby 1916-1991 153
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