Gothic romance, ghost story, parable, psychological thriller, inner-space fiction—Dumas’s stories form a vivid, expansive portrait of African-American life. Africanfuturism, gothic romance, ghost story, parable, psychological thriller, inner-space fiction: Henry Dumas’s stories form a vivid, expansive portrait of Black life in America.
Championed by Toni Morrison and Walter Mosley, Dumas’s fabulist fiction is a masterful synthesis of myth and religion, culture and nature, mask and identity. From the Deep South to the simmering streets of Harlem, his characters embark on real, magical, and mythic quests. Humming with life, Dumas’s stories create a collage of midcentury Black experiences, interweaving religious metaphor, African cosmologies, diasporic folklore, and America’s history of slavery and systemic racism.
Henry Dumas was born in Sweet Home, Arkansas, in 1934 and moved to Harlem at the age of ten. He joined the air force in 1953 and spent a year on the Arabian Peninsula. Upon his return, Dumas became active in the civil rights movement, married, had two sons, attended Rutgers University, worked for IBM, and taught at Hiram College in Ohio and at Southern Illinois University. In 1968, at the age of thirty-three, he was shot and killed by a New York City Transit Authority police officer.