Books by Richard Wright
Richard Wright: Early Works /
Black Boy /
Native Son /
Uncle Tom's Children /
12 Million Black Voices /
Richard Wright: Later Works
The Outsider /
Black Power /
White Man Listen! /
The Color Curtain /
Savage Holiday /
The Long Dream
Eight Men: Short Stories /
American Hunger /
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1908 (4 September) -- Born
in Natchez, Mississippi, twenty miles east on Rucker's
first child of Nathaniel Wright, a sharecropper, and Ella Wilson
Wright, a schoolteacher, a
profession she gave up soon after Richard was born for farm work.
1910 (24 September) -- Brother Leon Alan Wright born.
1911-1912 -- Family moves
to Natchez with Ella Wright's family. Sets accidentally sets the
house of grandparents on fire.
Wrights move to Memphis in search of employment. Nathaniel works
as a hotel
porter and Ella works as cook for a white family. Nathaniel
leaves family for another
-- Enters school at Howe Institute, Memphis. Ella becomes ill
and her sons are
placed in orphanage for a short time. Richard spends
summer in Jackson, Mississippi
with maternal grandparents.
1916 -- Ella
moves with her sons to Elaine, Arkansas, to live with sister and
and Silas Hopkins. Richard becomes close to Silas.
1917 -- Uncle Silas, a
relatively prosperous builder and saloon-keeper, murdered by
arrests are made, and Aunt Maggie, Ella, and the children flee
to West Helena, Arkansas.
Wright's schooling sporadic. Becomes acutely aware of southern
racism and violence.
1918-1919 -- Forced to
leave school to find work. Ella has stroke and becomes
Children separated. Goes to live with an uncle and aunt in
Returns unhappy, to Jackson, Mississippi.
1920 -- Attends the
Seventh-Day Adventist school taught by his Aunt Addie and rebels
1921 -- Transfers to the public Jim Hill School, where
he excels academically and gains friends.
1922 -- Works at various
jobs after school and during summer, including newsboy (where he
able to read) and work with an insurance agent allows him to
travel around Mississippi.
Notes with dismay illiteracy and lack of education among Negroes.
Racial rioting takes place in many American cities in the years
War I. Brother of a high school friend is murdered by whites.
1923-1924 -- Attends
Smith-Robertson Junior High. His story, "The Voodoo of
Hell's Half-Acre," reportedly was published in the Jackson Southern
1925 -- Graduates from
Smith-Robertson as valedictorian. Refuses to deliver the
ceremony speech prepared by the principal and instead delivers
his own. Leaves Jackson
1927 -- Ella and Leon join
Richard in Memphis. Spurred by author H.L. Mencken's Prefaces,
reads American naturalist writers. In December, with Aunt
Maggie, moves to the South
Side of Chicago.
1928 -- Ella and Leon also
move to Chicago. Begins work at post office but later fails
exam due to undernourishment
1929 -- Passes medical exam
and returns to work. Moves family into a four room apartment.
Begins to write more frequently.
1930 -- Hours at post office cut as Chicago's
South Side sinks into the Depression.
1931 -- Publishes short
story "Superstition" in Abbott's Monthly Magazine, a
magazine, which fails before Richard is paid.
1933 -- Joins the
Chicago John Reed Club. Writes revolutionary poetry.
1934 -- Joins
Communist Party. Hired to supervise a youth club organized
to counter juvenile
delinquency among South Side Negroes.
1935 -- Continues to
publishes poetry, tries unsuccessfully to sell Lawd Today!
(his first novel,
originally titled "Cesspool."), expands
acquaintance among left-wing writers, and is hired by
the Federal Writer's Project. Lawd Today! published 1963,
28 years later, a few years
after Wright's death.
1936 -- Active in the
Negro South Side Writer's Group. Publishes "Big Boy
Leaves Home" in The
1937 -- Turns
down a full-time postal position in Chicago. Moves to New York
to write for the Daily Worker while working with the Writer's Project.
His "Fire and Cloud" wins $500
first prize in a contest sponsored by Story magazine.
1938 -- Uncle Tom's
Children published with good reviews. Becomes interested in
Nixon case (an 18-year-old black man murdered a white woman with
a brick). Wright
researches the case and uses it as a documentary parallel to
characters and events in Native
1939 -- Marries Dhima Rose Meadman, a white ballet
dancer. Ralph Ellison served as best man.
1940 -- Native
Son published, becomes a best-seller, and receives many
favorable reviews. Uncle Tom's Children reissued in an expanded
edition. Marriage with Dhima Rose fails.
Attempts to reconcile with his father.
1941 -- Marries Ellen
Poplar, a Communist organizer from Brooklyn. Native Son, the play,
developed by Wright with Paul Green, and produced on Broadway by
Orson Welles and
John Houseman. Wright collaborates with Edwin Rosskam on Twelve
1942 -- Daughter Julia is born. Withdraws from the
Communist Party without publicity.
1944 - Publishes
to Be a Communist" in The Atlantic Monthly
and "The Man Who Lived Underground" published in Cross Section.
1945 (March)-- Black Boy
published, becomes a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club.
Receives excellent reviews and becomes a best-seller.
1946 (May-December) -- Travels
to France as a guest of the French government. Received well
by French intellectuals
1947 -- Returns to New York.
Gathers Ellen and Julia and returns to Paris. Both become
1949 -- Rachel, a second daughter, born in
January. Writes the film version of Native Son.
1950 -- Native Son,
the film, shown in Buenos Aires, New York, Venice, and
elsewhere. Plays the
role of Bigger Thomas.
1952 -- Refuses to return
to the United States because of risk of subpoena by an
congressional investigating committee.
1953 (March)-- The Outsider published to mixed
reviews. Travels throughout Africa's Gold Coast.
1954 -- Travels in Spain. Black Power and Savage
1955 -- Visits Spain again. Attends the Bandung
1956 (March) -- The
Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference published
in English.Appeared several months before in French.
1957 -- Pagan Spain and White Man, Listen!
1958 (October) -- The Long Dream published,
reviews mostly unfavorable.
1959 -- Daddy Goodness,
adapted by Wright from Louis Spain's Pappa Bon Dieu,
Paris. Wright writes haiku.
1960 (28 November) -- The Long Dream,
adapted from the novel, a week's run on Broadway. Dies of heart
attack 28 November. Cremated at the Pere Lachaise cemetery on
December 3 with a
copy of Black Boy.
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Salvage the Bones
A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—
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What This Cruel War Was Over
Soldiers Slavery and the Civil
By Chandra Manning
For this impressively researched
Civil War social history, Georgetown
assistant history professor Manning
visited more than two dozen states
to comb though archives and
libraries for primary source
material, mostly diaries and letters
of men who fought on both sides in
the Civil War, along with more than
100 regimental newspapers. The
result is an engagingly written,
convincingly argued social history
with a point—that those who did the
fighting in the Union and
Confederate armies "plainly
identified slavery as the root of
the Civil War." Manning backs up her
contention with hundreds of
first-person testimonies written at
the time, rather than
memoirs. While most Civil War
narratives lean heavily on officers,
Easterners and men who fought in
Virginia, Manning casts a much
broader net. She includes
immigrants, African-Americans and
western fighters, in order, she
says, "to approximate cross sections
of the actual Union and Confederate
ranks." Based on the author's
dissertation, the book is free of
academese and appeals to a general
audience, though Manning's harsh
condemnation of white Southerners'
feelings about slavery and her
unstinting praise of Union soldiers'
"commitment to emancipation" take a
step beyond scholarly objectivity.—Publishers
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The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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4 March 2012