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Richard Wright

Richard Nathaniel WrightHe was born on September 4, 1908, in Roxie, Mississippi. The grandson of slaves and the son of a sharecropper, he was raised largely by his mother, a loving woman who became a single mother after her husband left the family whenWrighthe was five.

Educated in Jackson, Mississippi,WrightHe only managed to get a ninth grade education, but he was a voracious reader and showed early on that he knew how to use words. When he was 16 years old, a short story of him was published in a South African American newspaper, an encouraging sign for future prospects. After leaving school,WrightHe did a number of odd jobs and in his spare time he devoted himself to American literature. To pursue his literary interests, he went so far as to forge notes so that he could check out books on a white co-worker’s library card, since blacks were not allowed to use the Memphis public libraries. The more I read about the world, the more I longed to see it and make a permanent break with the segregation system of the South.

In 1927,Wrighthe eventually left the South and moved to Chicago, where he worked at a post office and swept the streets as well. Like so many Americans who fought during the Depression,Wrighthe was another victim of poverty. Along the way, his frustration with American capitalism led him to join the Communist Party in 1932. When he could, he continued to review books and write. He eventually joined the Federal Writers Project and, in 1937, with the dream of succeeding as a writer, he moved to New York City, where he was told he had a better chance of being published.


In 1938,WrightpublicUncle Tom’s Children, a collection of four stories that marked a major turning point in his career. The stories earned him a $ 500 award from Story magazine and led to a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1939.

He achieved even more acclaim in 1940 with the publication of the novelNative Son, which told the story of a 20-year-old African-American man namedBigger thomas. The book gave Wright fame and freedom to write. It was a regular book at the top of the bestseller lists and became the first book by an African American writer to be selected by the Book of the Month Club. A theatrical version, written byWrightand Paul Green, followed in 1941, and himselfWrighthe later played the lead role in a film version made in Argentina.

In 1945 he publishedBlack boy, which offered a moving account of his childhood and youth in the South. He also describes extreme poverty and his accounts of racial violence against blacks.


After living mainly in Mexico, from 1940 to 1946,WrightHe became disillusioned with both the Communist Party and white America so he went to Paris, where he lived the rest of his life as an expatriate. He continued to write novels, such asThe Outsider(1953) andThe long dream(1958), and nonfiction, such asBlack power(1954) andWhite Man, Listen!(1957).

Wrightdied of a heart attack on November 28, 1960 in Paris, France. His naturalistic fiction no longer has the prestige it once had, but his life and works remain exemplary.


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