ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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The nationalist aspects of Negro life are as sharply manifest in the social institutions of

 the Negro people as in folklore. There is a Negro church, a Negro press, a Negro

social world, a Negro sporting world, a Negro business world, a Negro school system,

Negro professions, in short, a Negro way of life in America. 



 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  /  Pagan Spain Black Power  /  White Man Listen!  / The Color Curtain Savage Holiday / The Long Dream

Eight Men: Short Stories  / Haiku / American Hunger / Lawd Today!

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Richard N. Wright




1908 (4 September) -- Born in Natchez, Mississippi,  twenty miles east on Rucker's Plantation, the 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.


1913-1914 -- 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 woman.


1915 (September) -- 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 brother-in-law, Maggie and Silas Hopkins. Richard becomes close to Silas. 


1917 -- Uncle Silas, a relatively prosperous builder and saloon-keeper, murdered by whites. No 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 paralyzed. Children separated. Goes to live with an uncle and aunt in Greenwood, Mississippi. Returns unhappy, to Jackson, Mississippi.


1920 -- Attends the Seventh-Day Adventist school taught by his Aunt Addie and rebels against its strict rules.


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 is 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.


1921-1925 -- Racial rioting takes place in many American cities in the years following World 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 Register.


1925 -- Graduates from Smith-Robertson as valedictorian. Refuses to deliver the graduation ceremony speech prepared by the principal and instead delivers his own. Leaves Jackson for  Memphis.


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  medical 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 black-owned 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 New Caravan.


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 the Robert 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 Million Black



1942 -- Daughter Julia is born. Withdraws from the Communist Party without publicity.

1944 -  Publishes  "I Tried 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 permanent expatriates.


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 anti-Communist 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 Holiday published

1955 -- Visits Spain again. Attends the Bandung Conference.

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! published.

1958 (October) -- The Long Dream published, reviews mostly unfavorable.

1959 -- Daddy Goodness, adapted by Wright from Louis Spain's Pappa Bon Dieu, produced in 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.


*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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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.—WashingtonPost

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What This Cruel War Was Over

Soldiers Slavery and the Civil War

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 often-unreliable after-the-fact 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 Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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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 Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)



update 4 March 2012




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Related file: Richard Wright Centenenial