Richard Wright - Life Stories, Books, and Links
Biographical Information

Stories about Richard Wright

Selected works by this author

Selected books about / related to this author

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Picture of Richard Wright, expatriate American author of Native Son and Black Boy; twentieth century American Literature
Richard Wright   (1908 - 1960)
Category:  American Literature
Born:  September 4, 1908
near Natchez, Mississippi, United States
Died:  November 28, 1960
Paris, France
Related authors:
Frantz Fanon, James Baldwin, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Langston Hughes
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Richard Wright - LIFE STORIES
11/28/1960     Richard Wright as Sledgehammer
On this day in 1960 Richard Wright, the expatriate American writer of Black Boy and Native Son, died in Paris. "He came like a sledgehammer, like a giant out of the mountain with a sledgehammer, writing with a sledgehammer," said historian John Henrik Clarke. Of all the things Wright wanted to smash in racist America, the last may have been the Hollywood producer who asked to film Native Son with a white hero. . . .
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Richard Wright: Early Works: Lawd Today! / Uncle Tom's Children / Native Son
by Richard Wright, Arnold Rampersad (Editor)
Richard Wright: Later Works: Black Boy, The Outsider
by Richard Wright, Arnold Rampersad (Editor)
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The Hidden Wound
by Wendell Berry
The Middle Passage: White Ships Black Cargo
by Tom Feelings, John Henrik Clarke (Introduction)
illustrations, history
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Aha! Poetry
Find an article on the haiku written by Wright in the last years of his life. Offers background information, commentary, and poems.

"Wright was first introduced to haiku during the last year or two of his life. Haiku became the calm eye within during this stormy period marked by a series of traumatic and chaotic events. His mother Ella, who he had written of so emotionally in Black Boy and who had given him the kind of childhood in Mississippi of which he had so many fond memories, died in January, 1959. That same month, the French writer Albert Camus, who Wright highly admired, died in an auto accident."
Modern American Poetry
Find a biography that explores the author's life and legacy, bibliography, photographs, analysis of Wright's poetry, and articles about the Great Depression. On Native Son:

"While Wright made blacks proud of his success, he also made them uncomfortable with the protagonist, Bigger, who is a stereotype of the 'brute Negro' they had been trying to overcome with novels of uplift by the 'talented tenth' since the Gilded Age. Wright's argument is that racist America created Bigger; therefore, America had better change or more Biggers would be out there. At the end, when Max fails to understand Bigger, who cannot be saved from the electric chair, Wright is faulting the Communist party for not comprehending the black people it relied on for support. Native Son continues to be regarded as Wright's greatest novel and most influential book. As a result, he has been called the father of black American literature, a figure with whom writers such as James Baldwin had to contend."
PBS: Richard Wright's Black Boy
A supplemental resource to the PBS video biography provides background information about documentary, and suggestions for its use in the classroom. Also provides brief commentary about the author and a chronology of important life events, an image gallery, critical bibliography, fact sheet about the film, and a Teacher's Guide featuring questions and activities related to the program.

"In the books that followed Black Boy, Wright expresses his deep interest in the large questions of authority, power, and freedom. Like Cross Damon, the hero of The Outsider (1953), Wright himself had existential longings. If one understands this novel as one segment of Wright's intellectual autobiography, it is easier to understand why and how he situated himself in non-fiction works and why he was so fascinated by modern psychology in Lawd Today, Savage Holiday, and The Long Dream."
The Autodidact Project
Find non-academic resources on twentieth century American philosophy, an essay by James Baldwin on individual identity and other topics, (strongly opinionated) study guides for Pagan Spain and White Man, Listen!, and a review of Hazel Rowley's biography, Richard Wright: The Life and Times.

"In my view, Richard Wright (rivalled only by Ralph Ellison) is the most important American literary intellectual of the century. To be sure, we know so much more today and we are oh so much more sophisticated, but where are our standards? For Wright came from the absolute godforsaken bottom, rural Mississippi around the turn of the century, and this high-school dropout ended up in Paris as a peer of Jean-Paul Sartre. No thinker ever underwent a more excruciating journey of the body and of the mind to get to the place where he ended up, and so there is no excuse for the half-assed mediocrity that passes for thinking today."
The Mississippi Writer's Page
Find a biography which examines the author's life and legacy, and a bibliography of works by and about the writer.

"The importance of his works comes not from his technique and style, but from the impact his ideas and attitudes have had on American life. Wright is seen as a seminal figure in the black revolution that followed his earliest novels. Bigger Thomas, the central figure of Native Son, is a murderer, but his situation galvanized the thought of black leaders toward the desire to confront the world and help shape the future of their race."
The Richard Wright Connection
Find articles and links, including a 1949 essay concerning Black Boy, Native Son, the freedom of black Americans, and the author's involvement with the Communist Party.

"Wright has always had a deep interest in the varied manifestations of the oppressed, circumscribed modern personality. When he breaks from the party this interest begins to assume a new importance. Like the French Existentialists he writes of dread, nausea, tension and pain. The Existentialists explain Wright, and Wright explains the Existentialists. Both are intellectuals craving a community life, but unable to find it in contemporary society or in the Communist Party which claims to offer an alternative."
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March 17, 2018
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