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Who Was Richard Wright?

Diane Goettel
By
Updated May 23, 2024
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Richard Wright, born Richard Nathaniel Wright on 4 September 1908, was an African-American writer. Wright is known for writing provocative and controversial stories and novels centered on themes of race and racial relations. In fact, he has been credited with helping to chance the manners in which race and race relations were addressed and discussed in 20th century America.

Richard Wright’s personal experience was marked by growing up in a broken and impoverished family in the 1910’s and 1920’s South. In Black Boy, his autobiography, he writes about being so hungry that he would gorge himself on tap water just to be able to appreciate the sensation of having a full stomach. As a young man, he relocated to the northern United States. His observations of the differences between the North and the South, as well as discussions of his experiences as a young black man in the North are also present in his autobiography.

In Black Boy, Wright discusses his early fascination with literature. In fact, he names the authors who he was most taken by, his first literary influences. He names Gertrude Stein, H. L. Mencken, Sinclair Lewis, and Marcel Proust as the authors who he hungrily read as a young man.

In the 1950’s Richard Wright’s work gained a more international outlook. This was largely a result of his relocation to Europe. Many literary critics expressed disappointment in the work that the author produced during this period, claiming that he had moved too far away from his roots. In the 1960’s however, Wright’s popularity redoubled in the wake of the black social movements of the era.

Richard Wright passed away on 28 November 1960. His work, however, continued to gain appreciation and interest. By the 1980’s, many of his novels and autobiographical works were required reading in college courses. He is still widely read and discussed today.

Below is a list of the works of Richard Wright, divided by genre. Each list is ordered chronologically.

Fiction

  • Uncle Tom's Children
  • Native Son
  • The Outsider
  • Savage Holiday
  • The Long Dream
  • Eight Men
  • Lawd Today

Nonfiction

  • How “Bigger” Was Born; the Story of Native Son
  • 12 Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States
  • Black Boy
  • Black Power
  • The Color Curtain
  • Pagan Spain

Essays

  • The Ethics Of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical Sketch
  • Introduction to Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City
  • I Choose Exile
  • White Man, Listen!
Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel , Former Writer
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"

Discussion Comments

By momothree — On Mar 16, 2011

@gardenturtle- No, they are not the same. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, opened the eyes of many people to the severity of slavery.

“Uncle Tom’s Children” is actually a collection of different short stories by Wright. The book includes the short stories, “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow”, “Big Boy Leaves Home”, “Down by the Riverside”, “Long Black Song”, “Fire and Cloud”, and “Bright and Morning Star”.

By GardenTurtle — On Mar 13, 2011

Above, in the books by Richard Wright, it lists "Uncle Tom's Children". Is that supposed to be something like "Uncle Tom's Cabin"?

Diane Goettel

Diane Goettel

Former Writer

"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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