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Richard Wright

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

Pen Name: None

Connection to Illinois: Wright moved to Chicago in 1927. He worked at the U. S. Post office in Chicago during the 1920`s and the Works Progress Administration 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.

Biography: 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.

  • -- Spingarn Medal, 1941
  • -- Name engraved on the frieze of the Illinois State Library alongside other great Illinois literary figures, 1990
  • -- Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, 2010

Primary Literary Genre(s): Fiction; Non-Fiction

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers


Selected Titles

12 million black voices /
ISBN: 1560254467 OCLC: 51523421

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.

A father's law /
ISBN: 9780061349164 OCLC: 156816390

A novel left unfinished by Richard Wright at the time of his death in 1960, telling the story of Ruddy Turner, an African-American police chief in a Chicago suburb, who struggles to know what to do when he begins to suspect his college-age son Tommy is a murderer.

American hunger /
ISBN: 0060147687 OCLC: 2694950

Harper & Row, New York : ©1977.

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

Black boy :
ISBN: 0060834005 OCLC: 61652696

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.

Black Power: A Record of Reactions in a Land of Pathos

Conversations with Richard Wright
ISBN: 0878056327 OCLC: 28149215

University Press of Mississippi, Jackson : ©1993.

Collection of interviews revealing Wright's racial experience and the themes and techniques of his own work.

Eight men :
ISBN: 9780061450181 OCLC: 226304832

Harper Perennial Modern Classics, New York : 2008.

Here, in these powerful stories, Richard Wright takes readers into this landscape once again. Each of the eight stories in Eight Men focuses on a black man at violent odds with a white world, reflecting Wright's views about racism in our society and his fascination with what he called the struggle of the individual in America. These poignant, gripping stories will captivate all those who loved Black Boy and Native Son.

Haiku :
ISBN: 1559704454 OCLC: 39116670

Dazzling collection of 810 Haiku written by the late African-American author of Native Son holds true to the traditional Zen discipline of depicting the relationship between man and nature, but does so from the perspective of an African-American man.

Injustice /
ISBN: 1784874086 OCLC: 1028803792

How to go on in a world where everything is set against you? With hope? In fear? Or, in violent struggle? In this gripping and disturbing book, Richard Wright weaves his own childhood recollections with those of Bigger Thomas - a young black man trapped in a life of poverty in the slums of Chicago, and unwittingly involved in a wealthy woman's death - to paint a portrait of insurmountable oppression. Through the strange pride Bigger takes in his crime, Wright brings us to confront the systems of justice we blindly assume are always on our side.

Lawd today /
ISBN: 0930350995 OCLC: 13795224

Northeastern University Press, Boston : 1986, ©1963.

Native son,
ISBN: 006083756X OCLC: 606483

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.

Pagan Spain
ISBN: 9780062010599 OCLC: 698473432

Harper Perennial Modern Classics, New York : 2008.

Richard Wright reader /
ISBN: 0060147377 OCLC: 3168415

Part II: Fiction -- Long Black song -- Fire and cloud. Lawd today [excerpt] -- Native son [excerpt] -- The man who lived underground -- The outsider [excerpt] -- Savage holiday [excerpt] -- Big Black good man -- The long dream [excerpt] -- Black Boy (excerpt) -- Joe Louis Uncovers Dynamite -- Blueprint for Negro Writing -- Letters: Richard Wright/Burton Rascoe -- Richard Wright/David L. Cohn -- Richard Wright/Antonio Frasconi -- Review: Wars I Have Seen / Gertrude Stein -- There's Always Another Cafe -- Black Power (excerpt) -- Pagan Spain (excerpt) -- 12 Million Black Voices -- Poetry: I Have Seen Black Hands -- Between the World and Me -- Red Clay Blues -- The FB Eye Blues -- Haikus -- Long Black Song -- Fire and Cloud -- Lawd Today (excerpt) -- Native Son (excerpt) -- The Man Who Lived Underground -- The Outsider (excerpt) -- Savage Holiday (excerpt) -- Big Black Good Man -- The Long Dream (excerpt) -- Chronology -- Bibliography.

Rite of passage /
ISBN: 0060234199 OCLC: 28510214

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.

Savage holiday :
ISBN: 0878057498 OCLC: 31132463

Banner Books, Jackson, MS : ©1994.

Erskine Fowler, an insurance executive forced by corporate intrigue into the long holiday of retirement, becomes enmeshed in a weekend of bizarre and bloody circumstances that reveal his troubled psyche and desperation. Naked and accidentally locked out of his apartment, he inadvertently causes a boy to fall to his death. Driven by guilt and by a compulsion to conceal his involvement, Fowler befriends the boy's mother. Yet his self-destructive rages to redeem himself lead to mayhem. This is Richard Wright's only published work with no black characters. He was unsure about how his readers would react to this bravely experimental novel. Shying away from the racial problem he depicted in his other works, he writes here a riveting study in psychological fiction. It deserves to be regarded anew as work from a master.

The color curtain :
ISBN: 0878057471 OCLC: 31207503

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.

The Long Dream

The long dream /
ISBN: 1555534236 OCLC: 43050098

Set in a small town in Mississippi, this is a novel rich in characterization and plot that dramatizes Richard Wright's themes of oppression, exploitation, corruption, and flight. It is the story of Fishbelly (called Fish), the son of Tyree Tucker, a prominent black mortician and owner of a brothel whose wealth and power were attained by forging business arrangements with corrupt white police officers and politicians. The riveting narrative centers on the explosive and tragic events that shape and alter the relationship between Fish and his father.

The man who lived underground :
ISBN: 9781598536768 OCLC: 1153014568

"Fred Daniels, a Black man, is picked up by the police after a brutal double murder and tortured until he confesses to a crime he did not commit. After signing a confession, he escapes from custody and flees into the city's sewer system."--

The outsider /
ISBN: 0060539259 OCLC: 52208813

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.

Uncle Tom's children /
ISBN: 0060587148 OCLC: 54394389

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.

White man, listen! /
ISBN: 0313205337 OCLC: 4003858

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

ISBN: 0940450666 OCLC: 23384900

Library of America : New York, N.Y. : ©1991.

The story of Wright's account of his struggle to escape a life of poverty, ignorance, and fear in his native South.