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Ain't Got No HomeAmerica's Great Migrations and the Making of an Interracial Left$
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Erin Royston Battat

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781469614021

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469614021.001.0001

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Wartime Shipyard

Wartime Shipyard

Chapter:
(p.127) Chapter 5 Wartime Shipyard
Source:
Ain't Got No Home
Author(s):

Erin Royston Battat

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469614021.003.0006

This chapter places African American writer Chester Himes's novel If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945) in the context of the crisis of unions and the fracturing of the Left in the 1940s. Himes depicts the conflicts between white Okies and African American migrants as they jockeyed for position in the California shipyards during World War II. When a white female Okie frames the black protagonist for rape, she transplants Jim Crow to California, using the force of the American legal system and the U.S. military to shore up her claims to white femininity. Himes highlights the stark contradictions between the democratic aims of the war and the treatment of people of color at home and abroad. While most critics his novel as an anticommunist polemic, this chapter reads it as a voice of black leftist internationalism that links capitalism, imperialism, and racial problems on the home front.

Keywords:   Chester Himes, If He Hollers, Let Him Go, unions, Left, Okies, African American migrants, black leftist internationalism

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