Richard Wright

Richard Wright
Early Life: “Richard Nathaniel Wright was born on September 4, 1908 near Natchez,
Mississippi. The grandson of slaves and the son of a sharecropper, Wright was largely raised
by his mother, a caring woman who became a single parent after her husband left the family
when Wright was five years old.
Schooled in Jackson, Mississippi, Wright only managed to get a ninth grade education,
but he was a voracious reader and showed early on he had a gift with words. When he was 16,
a short story of his was published in a southern African-American newspaper.
After leaving school, Wright worked a series of odd jobs. In his free time he delved into
American literature, going so far as to forge a note so he could secure a library card.
The more he read about the world, the more he longed to see it and make a permanent
break from the Jim Crow South. "I want my life to count for something," he told a friend.”
From Black Boy:
In buoying me up, reading also cast me down, made me see what was possible, what I
had missed. My tension returned, new, terrible, bitter, surging, almost too great to be contained. I
no longer felt that the world about me was hostile, killing; I knew it. A million times I asked
myself what I could do to save myself, and there were no answers. I seemed forever condemned,
ringed by walls. (Richard Wright, Black Boy 296 ).
And I knew that my words sounded wild and foolish in my environment, where reading
was almost unknown, where the highest item of value was a dime or a dollar, an apartment or a
job; where, if one aspired at all, it was to be a doctor or a lawyer, a shop keeper or a politician.
The most valued pleasure of the people I knew was a car, the most cherished experience a bottle
of whisky, the most sought-after prize somebody else’s wife. I had no sense of being inferior or
superior to the people about me; I merely felt that they had had no chance to learn to live
differently. I never criticized them or praised them, yet they felt in my neutrality a deeper
rejection of them than if I had cursed them. (Richard Wright, Black Boy 329).