A striking new edition of Richard Wright's powerful and unforgettable memoir, with a foreword by John Edgar Wideman and an afterword by Malcolm Wright, the author's grandson.
When it exploded onto the literary scene in 1945, Black Boy was both praised and condemned. 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." Yet from 1975 to 1978, Black Boy was banned in schools throughout the United States for "obscenity" and "instigating hatred between the races."
Wright's once controversial, now celebrated autobiography measures the raw brutality of the Jim Crow South against the sheer desperate will it took to survive as a black boy. Enduring poverty, hunger, fear, abuse, and hatred while growing up in the woods of Mississippi, Wright lied, stole, and raged at those around him--whites indifferent, pitying, or cruel and blacks resentful of anyone trying to rise above their circumstances. Desperate for a different way of life, he may his way north, eventually arriving in Chicago, where he forged a new path and began his career as a writer. 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." More than seventy-five year later, his words continue to reverberate. "To read Black Boy is to stare into the heart of darkness," John Edgar Wideman writes in his foreword. "Not the dark heart Conrad searched for in Congo jungles but the beating heart I bear."
One of the great American memoirs, Wright's account is a poignant record of struggle and endurance--a seminal literary work that illuminates our own time.
About the Author
Richard Wright won international renown for his powerful and visceral depiction of the black experience. He stands today alongside such African-American luminaries as Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison, and two of his novels, Native Son and Black Boy, are required reading in high schools and colleges across the nation. He died in 1960.
Malcolm George Wright is an Australian maritime artist who has spent over five decades researching ships' camouflage, making notes while interviewing veterans and consulting official sources, photographs and the work of artists of the era. He lives in Reynella and has a large family. He is the author of several naval wargames books and has had articles published in various magazines over the years. He is an avid wargamer, modeller and the administrator and co administrator of several Facebook pages relating to warships, wargames, modelling and history. His service in the South Australian Police taught him a discipline of research and investigation as well as the patience to pursue difficult subjects.
John Edgar Wideman's books include, among others, Look for Me and I'll Be Gone, American Histories, Writing to Save a Life, Brothers and Keepers, Philadelphia Fire, Fatheralong, Hoop Roots, and Sent for You Yesterday. He won the PEN/Faulkner Award twice and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and National Book Award. He is a MacArthur Fellow and a recipient of the Lannan Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. He divides his time between New York and France.
"Superb. . . . A great American writer speaks with his own voice about matters that still resonate at the center of our lives." -- New York Times Book Review
"A visceral and unforgettable account of a young black man's coming of age in the American south in the bitter decades before the civil rights movement." -- Guardian
"In this poignant and disturbing book one of the most gifted of America's younger writers turns from fiction to tell the story of his own life during the nineteen years he lived in the South." -- New York Times
"One of the most important literary talents of contemporary America." -- New York Times
"The publication of this new edition is not just an editorial innovation. It is a major event in American literary history." -- Andrew Delbanco, New Republic