Richard Wright: September Author Birthday

September marks the 100th birthday of influential African-American author Richard Wright. Born on September 4, 1908, Wright revolutionized the literary landscape with his depictions of African American culture, paving the way for future writers.

By Richard Wright

Native Son book jacket

Richard Wright’s most well-known book, Native Son, was published in 1940 to great success, becoming the first novel written by an African American selected for the Book-of-the-Month Club. It tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a young African American living in Chicago’s ghetto in the 1930s who accidentally kills a white woman and depicts the racism and social injustice of the time.

A collection of short stories, Uncle Tom's Children, contains some of Richard Wright’s earlier writing. The stories highlight the complicated interaction between blacks and whites in the post-slavery South, depicting racism and how African Americans responded to it.

Richard Wright wrote his autobiography, Black Boy, in 1945. It covers his life from age four to nineteen, when he left the South and moved north to Chicago. In describing his own experiences of racial oppression in the early 20th century, Wright reveals what thousands of African Americans lived through as well.

Published posthumously in 1961, Eight Men by Richard Wright contains eight short stories featuring black men in a white world, including the story, "The Man Who Lived Underground."

About Richard Wright

Conversations With Richard Wright book jacket

Conversations with Richard Wright edited by Keneth Kinnamon and Michel Fabre collects fifty interviews published in various newspapers and periodicals done over more than two decades with Wright. They reveal this intellectual’s social and political interests and position on racial issues.

Margaret Walker’s biography, Richard Wright, Daemonic Genius: A Portrait of the Man, A Critical Look at His Work, includes literary criticism to portray this significant writer. She covers his entire life, from his childhood in rural Mississippi to the years he lived in Paris.

The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright by Michel Fabre is a critically acclaimed biography about Wright. It provides a comprehensive portrait of Wright’s life as a man and a writer.

For a broader picture of Richard Wright during his expatriate years, pick up Exiled in Paris: Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett and Others on the Left Bank by James Campbell. In this book, Campbell covers black expatriate writers who fled the racist environment of the United States, as well as other exiled authors.