I am black and I have seen black hands, millions and
millions of them—
They were tired and awkward and calloused and grimy
and covered with hangnails,
And they were caught in the fast-moving belts of
machines and snagged and smashed and crushed…
And they grew nervous and sweaty, and opened and
shut in anguish and doubt and hesitation and
—RICHARD WRIGHT, "I HAVE SEEN BLACK HANDS"
"Gathered from Miscellaneous Sources"
THERE Is a certain irresistibility in the idea that great men, when they are young and before they are great, somehow were alive to the possibility of what they would become. They must be dreamers of great dreams that account for their destinies, small bits and pieces of conscious and unconscious invention, mere wisps of notions coming together, dissipating and reforming until they become something more substantial, clouds of glory falling to earth as a plan or course of action. In unpromising circumstances, those dreams serve to buoy or protect a young man's purposes, to succor a kept quiet identity faced with naysayers and doubters and their counsels of despair; they are armor for a self-conception that insists, "I will be someone" or "I shall show them all." These dreams are means for a young man to set things right on the planet, even if that fixing occurs only in one's head, refashioning the world to make it comport with one's own