Richard Wright was an African American anti-slavery activist whose works portrayed racial discrimination against the blacks in the United States of America, especially in the deep South. He was one of the voices for the black race when racism was still at its peak in the U.S and he spoke about the things troubling the black race of his time strongly in his books especially in the native son. His novels are interesting historical novels about blacks’ lives in America in the teeth of slavery and post-slavery. It was just like the poems of Claude McKay who witnessed blacks lynching in America. Reading his simple dictions novels is like studying the racial lines in America and draw lines to what’s happening today under Trump’s supremacism.
Wright was an essayist, short story writer, poet and novelist who did not care for sensitivity, that is, whoever got offended by his works. After excelling well in his studies in 1923, he earned the position of class valedictorian of Smith Robertson junior high school. He explained in Black Boy chapter 8, how he was asked to write a paper to be delivered at the graduation in a public auditorium. But he was called into the principal’s office and given a more polished speech that’s better suited to the mixed audience he’ll be addressing -African American and Whites’. His classmates and even his uncle told him not to use his speech, the principal even hinted at him losing the chance to teach at the school but Richard disobeyed them all and went along with his original speech without care. A speech which met with silent indifference.
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He gained recognition in 1938 for the collection of four of his short stories titled Uncle Tom’s Children (1938). The book had a favourable reception which helped boost his status with the Communist party and provided him with financial stability; enough to start the book “The Native Son” (1940). A book where the main character “Bigger Thomas” was portrayed as a white man’s worst fear. He is a highly opinionated man and created characters, themes, and plots that talked about arbitrary American policies and the oppressive rules against African American at the time. He moved from town to town till he later relocated to France – where he died 1960 from a heart attack -an “American expatriate”.
A cultural medallion of Richard Wright was erected by the Historic Districts Council and the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, in collaboration with the Fort Greene Association and writer/musician Carl Hancock Rux, at 175 Carlton Avenue Brooklyn, where Wright lived in 1938 and completed the novel, “Native Son” (1940) in 2012. April 2009, saw Wright’s featured on a U.S. postage stamp. The stamp which was the 25th instalment of the literary arts series features a portrait of Wright in a scene that recalls the setting of Native Son. He also got the Spingarn Medal in 1941 from the NAACP, Guggenheim Fellowship in 1939 based on his collected short stories and the Story Magazine Award in 1938.
Many of the books and essays of Richard Wright were not published owing to the violence he portrayed within those books. Published copies were edited, yet still met with criticism. After his death, some of his works have been published and the uncut version of his works exposed. Some of his works include: Black Boy (1945) – one of his bestsellers- The Man who was Almost a Man (1939), I Choose Exile (1951), The Outsider (1953), The Color Curtain (1956), White Man, Listen (1957) among many others.
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