Richard Wright

Richard Wright, 1908–60, American author. An African American born on a Mississippi plantation, Wright struggled through a difficult childhood and worked to educate himself. He moved to Chicago in 1927 and in the 1930s joined the city's Federal Writers' Project and wrote Uncle Tom's Children (1938), a collection of four novellas dealing with Southern racial problems. His novel Native Son (1940), which many consider Wright's most important work, concerns the life of Bigger Thomas, a victimized African American struggling against the complicated political and social conditions of Chicago in the 1930s. In 1932, Wright joined the Communist party but later left it in disillusionment. After World War II, Wright moved to Paris. His Black Boy (1945), also regarded as one of his finest works, is an account of his childhood and youth. Other works include Twelve Million Black Voices (1941), a folk history of African Americans; American Hunger (1977), a two-part autobiography; The Outsider (1953) and The Long Dream (1958), two novels; Black Power (1954), an account of his trip to the Gold Coast (Ghana); and Eight Men (1961), a collection of stories published posthumously. Originally censored by his publishers due to their racial, political, or sexual candor, Wright's works were reissued unexpurgated in 1991.

See biographies by C. Webb (1968), M. Fabre (tr. 1973), A. Gayle (1980), M. Walker (1988), and H. Rowley (2001); studies by D. McCall (1969), K. Kinnamon (1973), and D. Ray and R. M. Farnsworth, ed. (1973).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Student Companion to Richard Wright
Robert Felgar.
Greenwood Press, 2000
Understanding Richard Wright's Black Boy: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents
Robert Felgar.
Greenwood Press, 1998
Richard Wright's Native Son
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1988
Richard Wright's Travel Writings: New Reflections
Virginia Whatley Smith.
University Press of Mississippi, 2001
America's 93 Greatest Living Authors Present This Is My Best: Over 150 Self-Chosen and Complete Masterpieces, Together with Their Reasons for Their Selections
Whit Burnett.
Dial Press, 1942
Librarian’s tip: "Richard Wright: Why He Selected 'How "Bigger" Was Born'" begins on p. 448
A World More Attractive: A View of Modern Literature and Politics
Irving Howe.
Horizon Press, 1963
Librarian’s tip: "Black Boys and Native Sons" begins on p. 98
The Critical Response to Richard Wright
Robert J. Butler.
Greenwood Press, 1995
The World of Richard Wright
Michel Fabre.
University Press of Mississippi, 1985
The Art of Richard Wright
Edward Margolies.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1969
Voice of a Native Son: The Poetics of Richard Wright
Eugene E. Miller.
University Press of Mississippi, 1990
Richard Wright: Books and Writers
Michel Fabre.
University Press of Mississippi, 1990
Gertrude Stein and Richard Wright: The Poetics and Politics of Modernism
M. Lynn Weiss.
University Press of Mississippi, 1998
The Racial Problem in the Works of Richard Wright and James Baldwin
Jean-François Gounardoo; Joseph J. Rodgers Jr.
Greenwood Press, 1992
The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition
Bernard W. Bell.
University of Massachusetts Press, 1989
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Richard Wright and the Triumph of Naturalism"
American Culture in Europe: Interdisciplinary Perspectives
Mike-Frank G. Epitropoulos; Victor Roudometof.
Praeger Publishers, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Choosing Exile: Richard Wright, the Existentialists, and Cultural Exchange"
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