Richard Wright's powerful account of his journey from innocence to experience in the Jim Crow South. It is at once an unashamed confession and a profound indictment--a poignant and disturbing record of social injustice and human suffering.
When Black Boy exploded onto the literary scene in 1945, it caused a sensation. Orville Prescott of the New York Times wrote that “if enough such books are written, if enough millions of people read them maybe, someday, in the fullness of time, there will be a greater understanding and a more true democracy.” Opposing forces felt compelled to comment: addressing Congress, Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi argued that the purpose of this book “was to plant seeds of hate and devilment in the minds of every American.” From 1975 to 1978, Black Boy was banned in schools throughout the United States for “obscenity” and “instigating hatred between the races.”
The once controversial, now classic American autobiography measures the brutality and rawness of the Jim Crow South against the sheer desperate will it took to survive. Richard Wright grew up in the woods of Mississippi, with poverty, hunger, fear, and hatred. He lied, stole, and raged at those about him; at six he was a “drunkard,” hanging about in taverns. Surly, brutal, cold, suspicious, and self-pitying, he was surrounded on one side by whites who were either indifferent to him, pitying, or cruel, and on the other by blacks who resented anyone trying to rise above the common lot. At the end of Black Boy, Wright sits poised with pencil in hand, determined to "hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo."
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Richard Wright’s 1945 memoir is a deeply moving story of life during the Jim Crow era. Wright balances horror and raw detail while depicting his poverty-stricken childhood in the Deep South with powerful and fascinating tales. Moving north to Chicago via Memphis in the 1930s, Wright joins the Communist Party, only to discover that the same racial divides plague what is supposed to be a progressive society. Ending before his breakthrough novel, Native Son, establishes him as one of the leading voices of his generation, Black Boy is an intensely personal story about a young man finding—and using—his own voice.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Extraordinary man. Extraordinary life. Extraordinary book.
I read this book for an advanced placement literacy class in my high school, and we were given the summer to read it and write an essay on it. I started about a month into summer because the summary seemed so made up; him being "a drunkard at age six". When I finally started I could not stop reading. Not only was the content of this man's life extraordinary, the way Wright transformed his story into a book is too. The historical context is left in the background but always present, as to let us readers feel what he felt and why he felt it, based on the time period. Although you need to know the time period in which his life takes place, if you don't know the details of life in the south during this era, you will know it like you lived it yourself by the end of the book. I give it 5 stars, only because that is the limit. It's an easy read, especially if you're willing to crack a dictionary a few times (which I highly recommend if you want the full effect of it).