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Black boy : (American hunger) : a record of childhood and youth
Richard Wright
Adult Nonfiction PS3545.R815 Z5 1998

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Richard Wright was generally thought of as one of the most gifted contemporary African American writers until the rise of James Baldwin. "With Wright, the pain of being a Negro is basically economic---its sight is mainly in the pocket. With Baldwin, the pain suffuses the whole man. . . . If Baldwin's sights are higher than Wright's, it is in part because Wright helped to raise them" (Time). Wright was born on a plantation near Natchez, Mississippi, the son of a sharecropper. At the age of 15, he started to work in Memphis, then in Chicago, then "bummed all over the country," supporting himself by various odd jobs. His early writing was in the smaller magazines---first poetry, then prose. He won Story Story's $500 prize---for the best story written by a worker on the Writer's Project---with "Uncle Tom's Children" in 1938, his first important publication. He wrote Native Son (1940) in eight months, and it made his reputation. Based in part on the actual case of a young black murderer of a white woman, it was one of the first of the African American protest novels, violent and shocking in its scenes of cruelty, hunger, rape, murder, flight, and prison. Black Boy (1945) is the simple, vivid, and poignant story of Wright's early years in the South. It appeared at the beginning of a new postwar awareness of the evils of racial prejudice and did much to call attention to the plight of the African American. The Outsider (1953) is a novel based on Wright's own experience as a member of the Communist party, an affiliation he terminated in 1944. He remained politically inactive thereafter and from 1946 until his death made his principal residence in Paris. His nonfiction writings on problems of his race include Black Power: A Record of Reactions in a Land of Pathos (1954), about a visit to the Gold Coast, White Man, Listen (1957), and Twelve Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States. (Bowker Author Biography) Richard Wright was born on a plantation near Natchez, Mississippi. His father left the family when Wright was only five years old, and he was raised first by his mother and then by a series of relatives. What little schooling he had ended with his graduation from ninth grade in Memphis, Tennessee. At age 15, he started to work in Memphis, and later worked in Chicago before traveling across the country supporting himself with odd jobs. When Wright finally returned to Chicago, he got a job with the federal Writer's Project, a government-supported arts program. He was quite successful, winning a $500 prize from a magazine for the best fiction written by a participant in that program. In Chicago, he was also introduced to leftist politics and became a member of the Communist Party. In 1937, Wright left Chicago for New York, where he became Harlem editor for the Communist national newspaper, The Daily Worker, and where he met future novelist, Ralph Ellison. Wright became a celebrated author with the publication of Native Son (1940), a novel he wrote in only eight months. Based on the actual case of a young black murderer of a white woman, it was one of the first of the modern black protest novels, violent and shocking in its sense of cruelty, hunger, rape, murder, flight, and prison. This novel brought Wright both fame and financial security. He followed it with his autobiography, Black Boy (1945), which was also successful. In 1942, Wright and his wife broke with the Communist Party, and in 1947, they moved to France, where Wright lived the rest of his life. His novel The Outsider (1953) is based on his experiences as a member of the Communist Party. Wright is regarded as a major modern American writer, one of the first black writers to reach a large white audience, and thereby raise the level of national awareness of the continuing problem of racism in America. In many respects Wright paved the way for all black writers who followed him. (Bowker Author Biography)

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