Black Lives Matter: Why The Murder of This African-American Author in 1968 Should Matter Now

Written by Jae Jones

It was seven weeks after the assassination of D. King, a thirty-three year old named entered the subway in New York City at 135th Street in Harlem. It was then a confrontation happened, and little else is known about what happened. However, what is known is that a transit officer shot and killed , an (unarmed) African-American man. The police fired at Dumas, who was a father of two boys in a case of “mistaken identity.” Dumas had a family who he very much mattered to. To say he was killed by a “mistaken identity” was not acceptable then and should not ever be an acceptable excuse for taking the life of another.


The case never went to trial, nothing was ever done about the mistaken identity shooting because all the information and case documents were lost, according to Dumas’s biographer, Jeffery B. Leak. Dumas just became another nameless and faceless person who was murdered and mistreated by the White police. Another twist to Dumas case was the fact: Dumas, a writer, became a victim of the same violence he wrote about in his work. Dumas was an author of short stories-parables, realist fiction, sci-fire and folklore-which often discussed the African-American traditions and the cost of being a witness to brutality.

So, with all the cases today with people being killed at the hands of police officers, it is only right to take a look back at the case of Henry Dumas.  According to Ebony magazine, Dumas was born in Sweet Home, Arkansas in 1934. He moved to Harlem at the age of ten. He served in the military, traveled to the Middle East, studied Eastern religions and participated in the civil rights movement. In 1967, Dumas took a teaching job in the Midwest where he met the poet and scholar Eugene B. Redmond. After Dumas’s death, Redmond devoted much of his career to editing volumes of Dumas’s poetry and prose, bringing the work to the attention of Toni Morrison, then an editor at Random House.


Morrison published a collection of Dumas’s poetry, Play Ebony, Play Ivory, and a collection of some of his short fiction, Ark of Bones and Other Stories. Morrison called Dumas work, some of the most beautiful, moving and profound poetry and fiction that she had ever read in her life. Since the country is now taking a stand on Black Lives Matter, it is time to look back over the life of Dumas and his work and give it the credit it deserves. Read more.



Why This Author Murdered by the Police in 1968 Matters Right Now


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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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