Here are just some of the things that happened in 1964, the year “Cotton Comes to Harlem” is published. (courtesy of Wikipedia) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1964
February 3 – Protesting against alleged de facto school racial segregation, Black and Puerto Rican groups in New York City boycott public schools.
March 6 – Malcolm X, suspended from the Nation of Islam, says in New York City that he is forming a black nationalist party.
March 26 – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara delivers an address that reiterates American determination to give South Vietnam increased military and economic aid, in its war against the Communist insurgency.
May 12 – Twelve young men in New York City publicly burn their draft cards to protest the war; the first such act of war resistance.
June 12 – Nelson Mandela and 7 others are sentenced to life imprisonment in South Africa, and sent to the Robben Island prison.
June 25 – The Catholic Church condemns the female combined oral contraceptive pill.
July 2 – President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, abolishing racial segregation in the United States.
July 18 – Six days of race riots begin in Harlem.
July 19 – Vietnam War: At a rally in Saigon, South Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Khanh calls for expanding the war into North Vietnam.
July 27 – Vietnam War: The U.S. sends 5,000 more military advisers to South Vietnam, bringing the total number of United States forces in Vietnam to 21,000.
August 4 – American civil rights movement: The bodies of murdered civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney are found.
August 28–30 – Philadelphia 1964 race riot: Tensions between African American residents and police lead to 341 injuries and 774 arrests.
October 1 – Three thousand student activists at University of California, Berkeley surround and block a police car from taking a CORE volunteer arrested for not showing his ID, when he violated a ban on outdoor activist card tables. This protest eventually explodes into the Berkeley Free Speech Movement.
October 14 – American civil rights movement leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. becomes the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to him for leading non-violent resistance to end racial prejudice in the United States.
December 3 – Berkeley Free Speech Movement: Police arrest about 800 students at the University of California, Berkeley, following their takeover of and massive sit-in at the Sproul Hall administration building. The sit-in most directly protested the U.C. Regents’ decision to punish student activists for what many thought had been justified civil disobedience earlier in the conflict.
Between these many violent, chaotic, and confusing events in this time in America, including the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and racial and gender segregation in general, any could easily have influences Chester Himes’ ideas and views on the world he was living in.