Winfred Rembert, 75, Dies; Turned Painful Memories Into Art

Winfred Rembert, 75, Dies; Turned Painful Memories Into Art

Winfred Rembert survived a near-lynching in rural Georgia in 1967. Just 21, he had been stripped of his clothes by a mob of white men and hoisted upside down from a tree, a noose around his ankles. One man came at him with a knife and nearly castrated him, sending blood gushing down his body.

The only reason he wasn’t killed was that another white man stepped in, saying there were better things that could be done with Mr. Rembert, like throwing him back in jail from which he had just escaped.

After seven years of incarceration and hard labor for stealing a car, taking a gun from a deputy sheriff and escaping from prison, Mr. Rembert was released. He married, moved north and had eight children. And in a turn of events that no one had expected, he became an artist of some renown: Carving figures into leather, a craft he had learned in prison, he recreated vivid scenes from his life, of picking cotton, being lynched and busting rocks in his prison stripes.

His art told the story of the Jim Crow South. It was exhibited in galleries and museums and helped support his family, though they lived in poverty.

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