Monday, November 23, 2009
Perhaps the most widely appreciated African-American author to hail from Chicago (although not originally) Richard Wright deserves his own blog post on here.
He was born in Adams County, Mississippi in 1908 and came to Chicago as a postal clerk at the age of 19, at the height of the Harlem Renaissance and the so-called "flowering of Negro literature" (James Weldon Johnson). During the great depression era Wright's government position was eliminated and he began to gain an interest in the Communist Party; he officially joined in 1933. There's, of course, a curiously common theme at work here that includes most of Chicago's great authors (and will be fodder for a later blog post). Wright was soon writing proletariat poems and his first novel, Uncle Tom's Children came in 1938 to great critical praise and a Guggenheim fellowship followed in 1939.
His second novel, Native Son, came in 1940, which garnered him immediate popular attention. This work was noted for its violence and a murder trial that it is speculated was based upon the Leopold and Loeb murder case that Clarence Darrow is famous for. Literary critic Irving Howe wrote that "The day Native Son appeared, American culture was changed forever. No matter how much qualifying the book might later need, it made impossible a repetition of the old lies . . . [and] brought out into the open, as no one ever had before, the hatred, fear, and violence that have crippled and may yet destroy our culture."
Wright moved around between New York, Chicago, and Paris where he died in 1960.
His list of works thanks to Wikipedia:
* Uncle Tom's Children (New York: Harper, 1938)
* Native Son (New York: Harper, 1940)
* The Outsider (New York: Harper, 1953)
* Savage Holiday (New York: Avon, 1954)
* The Long Dream (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1958)
* Eight Men (Cleveland and New York: World, 1961)
* Lawd Today (New York: Walker, 1963)
* Rite of Passage (New York: Harper Collins, 1994)
* A Father's Law (London: Harper Perennial, 2008)
* How "Bigger" Was Born; Notes of a Native Son (New York: Harper, 1940)
* 12 Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States (New York: Viking, 1941)
* Black Boy (New York: Harper, 1945)
* Black Power (New York: Harper, 1954)
* The Color Curtain (Cleveland and New York: World, 1956)
* Pagan Spain (New York: Harper, 1957)
* Letters to Joe C. Brown (Kent State University Libraries, 1968)
* American Hunger (New York: Harper & Row, 1975)
* Big Boy Leaves Home (2007)
* Black Boy" ( Harper and Brothers 1945)
* The Ethics Of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical Sketch (1937)
* Introduction to Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City (1945)
* I Choose Exile (1951)
* White Man, Listen! (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1957)
* The Man Who Lived Underground
* Haiku: This Other World. (Eds. Yoshinobu Hakutani and Robert L. Tener. Arcade, 1998)