Richard Wright (author)

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Richard Wright, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1939

Richard Nathaniel Wright (September 4, 1908 - November 28,1960) was an African-American author of novels and short stories.

Wright was born in Roxie, Mississippi, a tiny town located about 22 miles east of Natchez, in Franklin County, though his family moved soon to Memphis, where his father, a former sharecropper, abandoned them. Wright, his brother, and mother soon moved to Jackson, Mississippi, to live with relatives. In Jackson Wright grew up and attended high school and formed some of his most lasting early impressions of American racism before eventually moving about 1927 back to Memphis, where he became acquainted with the works of such literary figures as H. L. Mencken. Eventually, he moved to Chicago, where he began to write, and then New York City. In May 1946 he travelled to France as a guest of the French government, where he was well-received by French intellectuals. It was after this visit that he settled in Paris to become a permanent American expatriate.

The grandson of slaves, Wright became a respected author, best known for his novel Native Son (1940), which in 1951 was made into a film in Argentina, in which Wright played the title character, Bigger Thomas.

Wright is also renowned for the semi-autobiographical Black Boy (1945), which describes his early life from Roxie through his move to Chicago, his clashs with his Seventh-day Adventist family, his difficulties with white employers and social isolation. American Hunger, (published posthumously in 1977) was originally intended as the second book of Black Boy and is restored to this form in the Library of America edition. This details his involvement with the John Reed Clubs and then (ambivalently) the American Communist Party, which he left in 1942, though the book implies that it was earlier, and the fact was not made public until 1944. In its restored form, its diptych structure mirrors the certainties and intolerance of organised communism, (the "bourgeois" books and condemned members) with similar qualities in fundamentalist organized religion. During McCarthyism, his membership in the Communist Party resulted in him and his works being blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses in the 1950s.

In 1949 he contributed to the anti-communist anthology The God That Failed, though he later rejected invitations to become involved with the Congress for Cultural Freedom, correctly suspecting that it had connections with the CIA. That organisation, with the FBI, had Wright under surveillance from 1943.

Other works include 1953's The Outsider and White Man, Listen! (1957), as well as a collection of short stories, Eight Men, published after his death in 1961. His works primarily deal with the poverty, anger, and protest of northern and southern urban Blacks.

In the last years of his life, Richard Wright became enamored with the Japanese poetry form haiku and he wrote over 4,000 of them. In 1998 a book was published ("Haiku: This Other World" ISBN 0-385-72024-6) with the 817 haiku that he preferred.

Richard Wright died ( in Paris of a heart attack at the age of 52. He is interred there in Le Père Lachaise Cemetery.

See also

fr:Richard Wright


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