Wright, Richard

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

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).

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