Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Richard Wright  

Pen Name: None

Genre:

Born: September 4, 1908 in Rucker's Plantation, twenty miles east of Natchez, Mississippi

Sites:


Illinois Connection

Wright moved to Chicago in 1927. He worked at the U. S. Post office in Chicago during the 1920`s and the Works Progress Adminintration Federal Writer`s Project in Chicago 1935-1937. While he lived in Chicago only about 10 years, it was in Chicago where he began a significant literary career focused on examining race relations in the 20th century.

Biographical and Professional Information

Richard Wright was an African-American author of novels, short stories and non-fiction. He is considered to be the most important African American writer of his time as his work helped redefine discussions of race relations in America in the mid-20th century. Born near Natchez, Mississippi, Wright resided in Chicago, Paris and New York. His famous novel, ''Native Son'', is set in Chicago and considered to be one of the best novels about the African American experience.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Uncle Tom's Children
ISBN: 0060587148

HarpPerenM. 2003

Set in the American Deep South, each of the powerful novellas collected here concerns an aspect of the lives of black people in the postslavery era, exploring their resistance to white racism and oppression. Published in 1938, this was the first book from Wright, who would continue on to worldwide fame as the author of the novels Native Son and Black Boy.

Native Son (Perennial Classics)
ISBN: 006083756X

Harper Perennial Modern Classics. 2005

Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny

by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright's powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.

12 Million Black Voices
ISBN: 1560254467

Basic Books. 2002

12 Million Black Voices, first published in 1941, combines Wright's prose with startling photographs selected by Edwin Rosskam from the Security Farm Administration files compiled during the Great Depression. The photographs include works by such giants as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Arthur Rothstein. From crowded, rundown farm shacks to Harlem storefront churches, the photos depict the lives of black people in 1930s America—their misery and weariness under rural poverty, their spiritual strength, and their lives in northern ghettos. Wright's accompanying text eloquently narrates the story of these 90 pictures and delivers a powerful commentary on the origins and history of black oppression in this country. Also included are new prefaces by Douglas Brinkley, Noel Ignatiev, and Michael Eric Dyson. "Among all the works of Wright, 12 Million Black Voices stands out as a work of poetry, ... passion, ... and of love."—David Bradley "A more eloquent statement of its kind could hardly have been devised."—The New York Times Book Review

Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth
ISBN: 0060834005

Harper. 2005

When Black Boy exploded onto the literary scene in 1945, it caused a sensation. Orville Prescott of the New York Times wrote that "if enough such books are written, if enough millions of people read them maybe, someday, in the fullness of time, there will be a greater understanding and a more true democracy." Opposing forces felt compelled to comment: addressing Congress, Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi argued that the purpose of this book "was to plant seeds of hate and devilment in the minds of every American." From 1975 to 1978, Black Boy was banned in schools throughout the United States for "obscenity" and "instigating hatred between the races."

This new edition of the once controversial, now classic American autobiography measures the brutality and rawness of the Jim Crow South against the sheer desperate will it took to survive as "black boy." Richard Wright grew up in the woods of Mississippi, with poverty, hunger, fear, and hatred. He lied, stole, and raged at those about him

at six he was "a drunkard," hanging about taverns. Surly, brutal, cold, suspicious, and self-pitying, he was surrounded on one side by whites who were either indifferent to him, pitying, or cruel, and on the other by blacks who resented anyone trying to rise above the common lot. At the end of Black Boy, Wright sits poised with pencil in hand, determined to "hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo."

Wright's eloquent account is at once a profound indictment and an unashamed confession -- a poignant and disturbing record of social injustice and human suffering.

HarperCollins is proud to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the book's publication with this special hardcover edition, which utilizes the restored text established by The Library of America and features a new foreword by Edward P. Jones, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Known World.

The Outsider
ISBN: 0060539259

HarpPeren. 2003

Wright presents a compelling story of a black man's attempt to escape his past and start anew in Harlem. Cross Damon is a man at odds with society and with himself, a man who hungers for peace but who brings terror and destruction wherever he goes.

As Maryemma Graham writes in her Introduction to this edition, with its restored text established by the Library of America, "The Outsider is Richard Wright's second installment in a story of epic proportions, a complex master narrative designed to show American racism in raw and ugly terms ... The stories of Bigger Thomas ... and Cross Damon bear an uncanny resemblance to many contemporary cases of street crime and violence. There is also a prophetic note in Wright's construction of the criminal mind as intelligent, introspective, and transformative."

In addition to the Introduction by Maryemma Graham, this edition includes a notes section by Arnold Rampersad.

The Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference (Banner Books)
ISBN: 0878057471

Univ Pr of Mississippi. 1995

Wright, one of America's great Black writers, describes the issues and his personal experiences at the 1955 Bandung Conference, where leaders of Asian and African nations met to discuss issues including colonialism, racism, international economic and social cooperation, and world peace. Wright offers portraits of leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and Jawaharal Nehru, and exhorts Western nations to destroy racial barriers. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or.

Pagan Spain
ISBN: 0061450197

Harper Perennial Modern Classics. 2008

A master chronicler of the African-American experience, Richard Wright brilliantly expanded his literary horizons with Pagan Spain, originally published in 1957. The Spain he visited in the mid-twentieth century was not the romantic locale of song and story, but a place of tragic beauty and dangerous contradictions. The portrait he offers is a blistering, powerful, yet scrupulously honest depiction of a land and people in turmoil, caught in the strangling dual grip of cruel dictatorship and what Wright saw as an undercurrent of primitive faith. An amalgam of expert travel reportage, dramatic monologue, and arresting sociological critique, Pagan Spain serves as a pointed and still-relevant commentary on the grave human dangers of oppression and governmental corruption.

White Man, Listen!
ISBN: 0313205337

Praeger. 1978

The Long Dream
ISBN: 0060808691

Harpercollins. 1987

A black boy faces the harsh realities of life in Mississippi as he is initiated into manhood

Eight Men (Classic Reprint Series)
ISBN: 0938410393

Thunder's Mouth Pr. 1987

Tells the stories of a young farm worker deep in debt, a flood, murder, a fugitive, exile, and a railroad porter

Lawd Today! (Northeastern Library of Black Literature)
ISBN: 0930350995

Northeastern. 1986

Back in its original unabridged form, a novel of Depression-era Chicago.

American Hunger
ISBN: 0060147687

Harper & Row. 1977

A continuation of Black Boy, Wright's acclaimed autobiographical work, calls attention to his first years in the North, his struggle to become a writer, and his brief association with the Communist party

Rite of Passage
ISBN: 0060234199

HarperCollins. 1994

A newly discovered, previously unpublished novella by the late author of Native Son details the disruption in Johnny Gibbs's life upon discovering he is a foster child, when, in rebellion, he joins a Harlem street gang, thereby abandoning his childhood.