Queer Writers: Willard Motley
Willard Motley was an African-American writer who grew up in one of the only African-American families residing in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood.
The Chicago Defender published Motley's fiction when he was only 13 years old. He was then writing a weekly column called "Bud Says" under the pseudonym "Bud Billikin" (which then give the name to an annual Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic).
Motley lived near Maxwell Street Market, where he became associated with Hull House, In 1940 he wrote for the Works Progress Administration Federal Writers Project.
In 1947 his first novel, Knock on Any Door, was critically acclaimed. In this novel, the main character, Nick, haunts West Madison Street and, to make money, allows himself to be picked up by gay men, described as “phonies.”
His second novel, We Fished All Night, did not receive the same success. Motley moved to Mexico to start over.
His third novel, Let No Man Write My Epitaph continued the story of Knock on Any Door.
On March 4, 1965, Motley died in Mexico City.
- Fleming, Robert E.. "Knock on Any Door". The Literary Encyclopedia. 9 March 2001.