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The semi-autobiographical novel Black Boy by Richard Wright is about understanding American history from the eyes of an African-American boy growing up in the early twentieth century. Wright struggles through his childhood, not knowing that there is a racial divide between whites and blacks. He is often supposed to behave in a certain way because of his skin color and social class, but he often behaves in the opposite manner. Wright is adamant about leaving the Jim Crow South and making a good life elsewhere. His narrative is representative of African-Americans in the pre-war South, where seemingly “free” blacks were held back by decades of white colonialism. Felgar notes that “without a generous supply of determination and will, he would have become what the system around him was designed to force him to become: a subhuman creature” (70), which had been usual until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Part One ends with Wright’s eventual escape from the oppression of the South and a “happy end”, telling that Wright went on to be a successful writer in the North. Part Two continues Wright’s story, addressing his attitude to Communism because of “racial equality being one of its major tenets” (Felgar 68). However, Wright became disillusioned with Communism when the leaders insisted that he wrote works political topics instead of the “bourgeois” subject matter that he wished to pursue (Felgar 68). Wright, like many other African-Americans of this time, was searching for his place in the bigger world where he could feel belonged and comfortable. The realization of this dream only came with the Civil Rights Movement and the move towards equality for the African-Americans, after which he became a writer in New York.
Felgar, Robert. Student Companion to Richard Wright. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost).
Felgar notes that “without a generous supply of determination and will, he would have become what the system around him was designed to force him to become: a subhuman creature” (70). This had been typical for the blacks until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
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