Native Son

Wright, Richard

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© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Richard Wright's Native Son
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1988
Librarian’s tip: This is a book of literary criticism
Voice of a Native Son: The Poetics of Richard Wright
Eugene E. Miller.
University Press of Mississippi, 1990
Student Companion to Richard Wright
Robert Felgar.
Greenwood Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Native Son (1940, 1991)"
Invented by Horror: The Gothic and African American Literary Ideology in Native Son
Smethurst, James.
African American Review, Vol. 35, No. 1, Spring 2001
Sentenced to Death: The American Novel and Capital Punishment
David Guest.
University Press of Mississippi, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Four "Richard Wright's Native Son: Rhetorical Determinism"
The Art of Richard Wright
Edward Margolies.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1969
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Revolution: Native Son"
The Delinquent's Sabbath; or, the Return of the Repressed: The Matter of Bodies in "Native Son"
Fishburn, Katherine.
Studies in the Novel, Vol. 31, No. 2, Summer 1999
The Horror of Bigger Thomas: The Perception of Form without Face in Richard Wright's 'Native Son.'
George, Stephen K.
African American Review, Vol. 31, No. 3, Fall 1997
The Dynamics of the Absurd in the Existentialist Novel
Richard E. Baker.
Peter Lang, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. V "Native Son"
Narrative Ethics
Adam Zachary Newton.
Harvard University Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: "Native Son" begins on p. 222
White Diaspora: The Suburb and the Twentieth-Century American Novel
Catherine Jurca.
Princeton University Press, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Four "Native Son's Trespasses"
The Apocalypse in African-American Fiction
Maxine Lavon Montgomery.
University Press of Florida, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Richard Wright, Native Son"
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