Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Richard Wright  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult;

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

Died: November 28, 1960 in Paris, France - buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

-- Mississippi Writers Page: Richard Wright --
-- Modern American Poetry: Richard Wright --
-- Richard Wright on WorldCat --

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

  • Uncle Tom’s Children: Four Novellas, Harper, 1938
  • Uncle Tom’s Children: Five Long Stories, Harper, 1938
  • Native Son, Harper, 1940
  • How “Bigger” Was Born; the Story of Native Son, Harper, 1940
  • 12 Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States, Viking, 1941
  • Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth, Harper, 1945
  • The Outsider, Harper, 1953
  • Savage Holiday, Avon, 1954
  • Black Power, A Record of Reactions in a Land of Pathos, Harper, 1954
  • The Color Curtain, A Report on the Bandung Conference, World, 1956
  • Pagan Spain, Harper, 1957
  • White Man, Listen!, Doubleday, 1957
  • The Long Dream, Doubleday, 1958
  • Eight Men (stories), World, 1961
  • Lawd Today, Avon, 1963
  • Letters to Joe C. Brown,Edited by Thomas Knipp, Kent State University Libraries, 1968
  • Daddy Goodness (Play) , Produced Off-Broadway, 1968
  • The Man Who Lived Underground, Aubier-Flammarion, 1971
  • American Hunger (Autobiography), Harper, 1977
  • Rite of Passage, Harper Collins, 1994

Selected Titles At Your Library

Uncle Tom's children /
ISBN: 0060587148. OCLC Number:

HarperPerennial,. New York :. 2004.

An autobiographical sketch and five short stories by the author, who was born on a Mississippi plantation, which focus on the plight of his people.

Native son,
ISBN: 006083756X. OCLC Number:

Harper & Bros.,. New York,. 1940.

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, Richard Wright's novel is just as powerful today as when it was written -- in its reflection of poverty and hopelessness, and what it means to be black in America.

12 million black voices /
ISBN: 1560254467. OCLC Number:

Thunder's Mouth Press,. New York :. ©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. - Publisher.

Black boy :
ISBN: 0060834005. OCLC Number:

HarperCollinsPublishers,. New York :. 2005.

This book is Richard Wright's devastating autobiography of his childhood and youth in the Jim Crow South. His training by his elders was strict and harsh to prepare him for the cruel "white world". His elders' resentment of those trying to escape their common misery made his future seem hopeless. In this book, the author describes his mental and emotional struggle to educate himself, which gave him a glimpse of life's possibilities and which led him to his triumphant decision to leave the South behind while still a teenager to live in Chicago and fulfill himself by becoming a writer.

The outsider /
ISBN: 0060539259. OCLC Number:

Perennial,. New York :. 2003.

[The author] 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.

The color curtain :
ISBN: 0878057471. OCLC Number:

Banner Books,. Jackson, MS :. [1995]

This indispensable work urging removal of the color barrier remains one of the key commentaries on the question of race in the modern era. First published in 1956, it arose from Richard Wright's participation in a global conference held in Bandung, Indonesia, in April 1955. With this report of what occurred at Bandung Wright takes a central spot on the international stage and serves as a harbinger of worldwide social and political change. He exhorts Western nations, largely responsible for the poverty and ignorance in their former colonies, to destroy racial impediments and to work with the leadership of the new nations in moving toward modernization and industrialization under a free democratic system rather than under Communist totalitarianism. With this book, Wright became a precursor to the era of multiculturalism and an advocate for global transformation.

Pagan Spain /
ISBN: 0061450197. OCLC Number:

Harper Perennial Modern Classics,. New York :. 2008.

White man, listen! /
ISBN: 0313205337. OCLC Number:

Greenwood Press,. Westport, Conn. :. 1978, ©1957.

The long dream /
ISBN: 0060808691. OCLC Number:

Perennial Library,. New York :. 1987, ©1958.

Officially an undertaker, Tyree has his hand in the brothels, the dancehalls, the tenements of the ten thousand Clontonville blacks. When the trap closes in, Tyree's double personality, one for the whites and another for his own people, splits wide open.

Eight men /
ISBN: 0938410393. OCLC Number:

Thunder's Mouth Press :. New York :. ©1987.

Lawd today /
ISBN: 0930350995. OCLC Number:

Northeastern University Press,. Boston :. 1986, ©1963.

American hunger /
ISBN: 0060147687. OCLC Number:

Harper & Row,. New York :. ©1977.

A continuation of Richard Wright's autobiography, "Black Boy."

Rite of passage /
ISBN: 0060234199. OCLC Number:

HarperCollins Publishers,. New York :. ©1994.

When fifteen-year-old Johnny Gibbs is told that he is really a foster child, he runs off into the streets of Harlem and meets up with a gang that wants him to participate in a mugging. Includes criticism of Wright's fiction.


Richard Wright received several different literary awards during his lifetime including the

Spingarn Medal

in 1941 and the

Story Magazine Award

. Name engraved on the frieze of the Illinois State Library alongside other great Illinois literary figures, 1990