A twentieth-century African-American writer and journalist, he is best known for his 1947 novel, Knock on Any Door, which was made into a film directed by Nicholas Ray and starring
Using the pseudonym of "Bud Billikin," he wrote a children's column entitled "Bud Says" for the Chicago Defender.
His most famous novel, Knock on Any Door, is often classified as a work of gritty naturalism.
He grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and he died in Mexico City. He was the nephew of artist Archibald Motley.
His novel, We Fished All Night, was made into a movie featuring music by Ella Fitzgerald.