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Works by
Richard Wright
(Aka Richard Nathaniel Wright)
(Writer)
[September 4, 1908 – November 28, 1960]

Profile created January 4, 2008
Collections
Drama
Essays
  • White Man, Listen! (1957)
    Mr.  Wright has much of merit to say about psychology of the world's darker peoples. Awareness of this psychology on the part of Western diplomats and newspapermen should make for the reporting of less nonsense than has been true in the past. Recommended for public, college and university.

Fiction
  • A Father's Law (2008)
    Never before published, the final work of one of America's greatest writers

    A Father's Law is the novel Richard Wright, acclaimed author of Black Boy and Native Son, never completed. Written during a six-week period near the end of his life, it appears in print for the first time, an important addition to this American master's body of work, submitted by his daughter and literary executor, Julia, who writes:

    It comes from his guts and ends at the hero's "breaking point." It explores many themes favored by my father like guilt and innocence, the difficult relationship between the generations, the difficulty of being a black policeman and father, the difficulty of being both those things and suspecting that your own son is the murderer. It intertwines astonishingly modern themes for a novel written in 1960.

    Prescient, raw, powerful, and fascinating, A Father's Law is the final gift from a literary giant.

  • Rite of Passage (1994) with David Diaz, Illustrator
    Fifteen-year-old Johnny Gibbs does, well in school, respects his teachers, and loves his family. Then suddenly, with a few short words, his idyllic life is shattered. He learns that the family he has loved all his life is not his own, but a foster family. And now he is being sent to live with someone else.

    Shocked by the news, Johnny does the only thing he can think of: he runs. Leaving his childhood behind forever, Johnny takes to the streets where he learns about living life--the hard way.

    Richard Wright, internationally acclaimed author of Black Boy and Native Son, gives us a coming-of-age story as compelling today as when it was first written, over fifty years ago.

  • Lawd Today! (1963)
    A novel of Depression-era Chicago.

  • Eight Men: Short Stories (1961)
    Here, in these powerful stories, Richard Wright takes readers into this landscape once again.

    Each of the eight stories in Eight Men focuses on a black man at violent odds with a white world, reflecting Wright's views about racism in our society and his fascination with what he called "the struggle of the individual in America." These poignant, gripping stories wi
    ll captivate all those who loved Black Boy and Native Son.

  • The Long Dream (1958)
    Set in a small town in Mississippi, The Long Dream is a novel rich in characterization and plot that dramatizes Richard Wright's themes of oppression, exploitation, corruption, and flight. It is the story of Fishbelly (called Fish), the son of Tyree Tucker, a prominent black mortician and owner of a brothel whose wealth and power were attained by forging business arrangements with corrupt white police officers and politicians. The riveting narrative centers on the explosive and tragic events that shape and alter the relationship between Fish and his father.

  • Savage Holiday (1954)

  • The Outsider (1953)
    Wright presents a compelling story of a black man's attempt to escape his past and start anew in Harlem. Cross Damon is a man at odds with society and with himself, a man who hungers for peace but who brings terror and destruction wherever he goes.

    As Maryemma Graham writes in her Introduction to this edition, with its restored text established by the Library of America, "The Outsider is Richard Wright's second installment in a story of epic proportions, a complex master narrative designed to show American racism in raw and ugly terms ... The stories of Bigger Thomas ... and Cross Damon bear an uncanny resemblance to many contemporary cases of street crime and violence. There is also a prophetic note in Wright's construction of the criminal mind as intelligent, introspective, and transformative."

  • Native Son (1940)
    Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright's powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.

  • Uncle Tom's Children (1938)
    Set in the American Deep South, each of the powerful novellas collected here concerns an aspect of the lives of black people in the postslavery era, exploring their resistance to white racism and oppression. Published in 1938, this was the first book from Wright, who would continue on to worldwide fame as the author of the novels Native Son and Black Boy.

Non-fiction
  • American Hunger (1977)

  • Letters to Joe C. Brown (1968)

  • Pagan Spain (1957)
    A master chronicler of the African-American experience, Richard Wright brilliantly expanded his literary horizons with Pagan Spain, originally published in 1957. The Spain he visited in the mid-twentieth century was not the romantic locale of song and story, but a place of tragic beauty and dangerous contradictions. The portrait he offers is a blistering, powerful, yet scrupulously honest depiction of a land and people in turmoil, caught in the strangling dual grip of cruel dictatorship and what Wright saw as an undercurrent of primitive faith. An amalgam of expert travel reportage, dramatic monologue, and arresting sociological critique, Pagan Spain serves as a pointed and still-relevant commentary on the grave human dangers of oppression and governmental corruption.

  • The Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference (1956)

  • Black Power: Three Books from Exile (1954)
    Originally published in 1954, Richard Wright's Black Power is an extraordinary nonfiction work by one of America's premier literary giants of the twentieth century. An impassioned chronicle of the author's trip to Africa's Gold Coast before it became the free nation of Ghana, it speaks eloquently of empowerment and possibility, and resonates loudly to this day.

    Also included in this omnibus edition are two nonfiction works Wright produced around the time of Black Power. White Man, Listen! is a stirring collection of his essays on race, politics, and other essential social concerns . The Color Curtain is an indispensable work urging the removal of the color barrier. It remains one of the key commentaries on the question of race in the modern era.

  • Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth (1945)
    Richard Wright grew up in the woods of Mississippi amid poverty, hunger, fear, and hatred. He lied, stole, and raged at those around 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.

    Black Boy is 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.

  • 12 Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States (1941, 2002)
    12 Million Black Voices, first published in 1941, combines Wright's prose with startling photographs selected by Edwin Rosskam from the Security Farm Administration files compiled during the Great Depression. The photographs include works by such giants as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Arthur Rothstein. From crowded, rundown farm shacks to Harlem storefront churches, the photos depict the lives of black people in 1930s America—their misery and weariness under rural poverty, their spiritual strength, and their lives in northern ghettos. Wright's accompanying text eloquently narrates the story of these 90 pictures and delivers a powerful commentary on the origins and history of black oppression in this country. Also included are new prefaces by Douglas Brinkley, Noel Ignatiev, and Michael Eric Dyson.

  • Native Son and How "Bigger" was Born (1940)
    The story of Native Son.

Poetry
  • Haiku: This Other World (1988), Robert L. Tener and Yoshinobu Hakatuni, eds.
    Like all great writers, Richard Wright never failed to create works of breathtaking originality, depth, and beauty. With Native Son he gave us Bigger Thomas, still one of the most provocative and controversial characters in fiction. With Black Boy he offered a candid and searing depiction of racism and poverty in America. And now, forty years after his death, he has bestowed us with one of the finest collections of haiku in American literature.

    Wright became enamored of haiku at the end of his life, and in this strict, seventeen-syllable form he discovered another way of looking at the world. He rendered images of nature and humanity that raised questions and revealed strikingly fresh perspectives. The publication of this collection is not only one of the greatest posthumous triumphs of American letters but also a final testament to the noble spirit and enduring artistry of Richard Wright.

Other
  • Richard Wright's Travel Writings: New Reflections (2001), Virginia Whatley Smith, ed.
    Attracted to remote lands by his interest in the postcolonial struggle, Richard Wright became one of the few African Americans of his time to engage in travel writing. He went to emerging nations not as a sightseer but as a student of their cultures, learning the politics and the processes of social transformation.

    When Wright fled from the United States in 1946 to live as an expatriate in Paris, he was exposed to intellectual thoughts and challenges that transcended his social and political education in America. Three events broadened his world view--his introduction to French existentialism, the rise of the Pan-Africanist movement to decolonize Africa, and Indonesia's declaration of independence from colonial rule in 1945. During the 1950s as he traveled to emerging nations his encounters produced four travel narratives--Black Power (1953), The Color Curtain (1956), Pagan Spain (1956), and White Man, Listen! (1957). Upon his death in 1960, he left behind an unfinished book on French West Africa, which exists only in notes, outlines, and a draft.

    Written by multinational scholars, this collection of essays exploring Wright's travel writings shows how in his hands the genre of travel writing resisted, adapted, or modified the forms and formats practiced by white authors. Enhanced by nine photographs taken by Wright during his travels, the essays focus on each of Wright's four separate narratives as well as upon his unfinished book and reveal how Wright drew on such non-Western influences as the African American slave narrative and Asian literature of protest and resistance. The essays critique Wright's representation of customs and people and employ a broad range of interpretative modes, including the theories of formalism, feminism, and postmodernism, among others.

    Wright's travel books are proved here to be innovative narratives that laid down the roots of such later genres as postcolonial literature, contemporary travel writing, and resistance literature.

  • Quintet: Stories (1956)
    With selections by Aldous Huxley, Guy De Maupassant, Leo Tolstoy, Richard Wright, and William Saroyan

See also:
  • The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008), Jerry W. Ward and Robert J. Butler, eds.

  • Richard Wright: A Biography (2007) by Debbie Levy
    Ages 9-12.

  • The Death-Bound-Subject: Richard Wright's Archaeology of Death (2005) by Abdul R. JanMohamed
    During the 1940s, in response to the charge that his writing was filled with violence, Richard Wright replied that the manner came from the matter, that the “relationship of the American Negro to the American scene [was] essentially violent,” and that he could deny neither the violence he had witnessed nor his own existence as a product of racial violence. Abdul R. JanMohamed provides extraordinary insight into Wright’s position in this first study to explain the fundamental ideological and political functions of the threat of lynching in Wright’s work and thought. JanMohamed argues that Wright’s oeuvre is a systematic and thorough investigation of what he calls the death-bound-subject, the subject who is formed from infancy onward by the imminent threat of death. He shows that with each successive work, Wright delved further into the question of how living under a constant menace of physical violence affected his protagonists and how they might “free” themselves by overcoming their fear of death and redeploying death as the ground for their struggle.

    Drawing on psychoanalytic, Marxist, and phenomenological analyses, and on Orlando Patterson’s notion of social death, JanMohamed develops comprehensive, insightful, and original close readings of Wright’s major publications: his short-story collection Uncle Tom’s Children; his novels Native Son, The Outsider, Savage Holiday, and The Long Dream; and his autobiography Black Boy/American Hunger. The Death-Bound-Subject is a stunning reevaluation of the work of a major twentieth-century American writer, but it is also much more. In demonstrating how deeply the threat of death is involved in the formation of black subjectivity, JanMohamed develops a methodology for understanding the presence of the death-bound-subject in African American literature and culture from the earliest slave narratives forward.

  • Dream Me Home Safely: Writers on Growing Up in America (2003), Susan Richard Shreve, ed.

  • Native Son: The Story of Richard Wright (2003) by Joyce Hart
    Traces the life and achievements of the twentieth-century African American novelist, whose early life was shaped by a strict grandmother who had been a slave, an illiterate father, and a mother educated as a schoolteacher. Ages 4-8.

  • Richard Wright's Black Boy (2003) by Douglas Taylor and William L. Andrews
    This casebook gathers together the most important critical responses to Richard Wright's autobiography. It includes a 1945 interview with Richard Wright, contemporary reviews of Black Boy written by W.E.B. Du Bois, Lionel Trilling, Mary McCarthy, and Ralph Ellison, and eight critical essays.

    These essays address a range of topics including the circumstances of the book's original publication in 1945; the relationship between the novel and Wright's actual biography; the African-American autobiographical tradition; the influences of various writers and literary movements on Black Boy; and the impact of African-American vernacular and oral performance on Wright's autobiography.

  • Black Manhood in James Baldwin, Ernest J. Gaines, and August Wilson (2002, 2004) by Keith Clark
    From Frederick Douglass to the present, the preoccupation of black writers with manhood and masculinity has been constant. Black Manhood in
    James Baldwin, Ernest J. Gaines, and August Wilson explores how in their own work three major African American writers contest classic portrayals of black men in earlier literature, from slave narratives through the great novels of Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison.

    Keith Clark examines short stories, novels, and plays by Baldwin, Gaines, and Wilson, arguing that since the 1950s the three have interrupted and radically dismantled the constricting literary depictions of black men who equate selfhood with victimization, isolation, and patriarchy. Instead, they have reimagined black men whose identity is grounded in community, camaraderie, and intimacy.

    Delivering original and startling insights, this book will appeal to scholars and students of African American literature, gender studies, and narratology.

  • Black Voices (2001), Abraham Chapman, ed.
    Featuring poetry, fiction, autobiography and literary criticism, this is a comprehensive and vital collection featuring the work of the major black voices of a century. An unparalleled important classic anthology with timeless appeal.

    Includes works by Arna Bontemps, Gwendolyn Brooks, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Leroi Jones,  Malcolm X, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, and W. E. B. Du Bois.

  • Richard Wright: The Life and Times (2001) by Hazel Rowley

  • Struggles Over the Word: Race and Religion in O'Connor, Faulkner, Hurston, and Wright (2001) by Timothy P. Caron
    This literary critical study counters the usual tendency to segregate Southern literature from African American literary studies. Noting that William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor are classified as Southern writers, whereas Zora Nehalem Hurston and Richard Wright are considered black authors, Timothy P. Caron argues for "an integrated study of the South's literary culture." He shows that the interaction of Southern religion and race binds these four writers together. Caron broadens our understanding of Southern literature to include both white and African American voices.

  • Student Companion to Richard Wright (2000) by Robert Felgar

  • Richard Wright: Critical Perspectives Past And Present (1999), Henry L. Gates and Kwame Anthony Appiah, eds.
    Of the numerous achievements that distinguish Richard Wright's place in the history of American literature, perhaps none is more important than the fact that he was the first African-American writer to sustain himself professionally from his writings alone. Primarily through the success of Native Sonand Black Boy, Wright was able to support, for two decades, a comfortable life for himself and his family in Paris. He also became, with the publication of Native Sonalone, the first internationally celebrated Black American author. If one had to identify the single most influential shaping force in modern Black literary history, one would probably have to point to Wright and the publication of Native Son,his first and most successful novel.

  • Richard Wright and the Library Card (1999) by William Miller with R. Gregory Christie, Illustrator
    Ages 4-9

  • Southern Selves: From Mark Twain and Eudora Welty to Maya Angelou and Kaye Gibbons -- A Collection of Autobiographical Writing (1998) by James Watkins
    In this marvelous anthology thirty-one of the South's finest writers -- from Mark Twain and Maya Angelou to Kaye Gibbons and Reynolds Price, to Eudora Welty and Richard Wright -- make their intensely personal contributions to a vibrant collective picture of southern life.

    In the hands of these superb artists, the South's rich tradition of storytelling is brilliantly revealed. Whether slave or master, intellectual or "redneck," each voice in this moving and unforgettable collection is proof that southern literature richly deserves its reputation for irreverent humor, exquisite language, a feeling for place, and an undying, often heartbreaking sense of the past.

  • Exiled in Paris: Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett, and Others on the Left Bank (1995, 2003) by James Campbell
    Exiled in Paris provides a compelling look at the personalities who fueled the literary and philosophical dramas of postwar Paris: James Baldwin, Alexander Trocchi, Boris Vian, Maurice Girodias, and many others. James Campbell provides a fresh look at Samuel Beckett's early career; reveals the facts behind the publication of the scandalous best-seller The Story of O; and tells the poignant story of Richard Wright's years in exile. He captures the sense of deliverance that Wright, so accustomed to daily humiliations in his own country, experienced during his sojourn on the Left Bank, where, for the first time in his life, he was treated as a great man of letters. Here, too, are all the circumstances surrounding Wright's mysterious death, which many close to him regarded as suspicious.

  • Conversations With Richard Wright (1993), Keneth Kinnamon and Michel Fabre, eds.

  • The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright (1993) by Michel Fabre

  • New Essays on Native Son (1990), Keneth Kinnamon, ed.
    New Essays on Native Son provides original insights into this major American novel by Richard Wright. After an introductory essay by the editor on the conception, composition, and reception of the novel, four leading Afro-Americanists examine various aspects of this classic fictional account of violent life and death in a racist society. John M. Reilly shows how carefully Wright utilises narrative techniques to subvert conventional American racial discourse and to establish the authority and authenticity of the protagonist's voice. Trudier Harris explores some of the social ironies involved in the novel's unfavourable presentation of female characters. Houston A. Baker Jr, focuses precisely on the concept of place in a new historicists treatment of black male and female roles in Native Son against Wright's own interpretation of Afro-American history in 12 Million Black Voices. Finally, Craig Werner convincingly relates Native Son to modernism as a literary movement. Moving beyond the old debate between protest and art, these essays, informed by new critical theory and perspectives, reveal previously unsuspected depth, complexity, and resonance in Wright's vision of black life and his literary resources in expressing it.

  • Richard Wright (1990) by Joan Urban
    Traces the life and achievements of the Black American novelist.

  • Richard Wright: Daemonic Genius (1988, 2000) by Margaret Walker
    A portrait of the man, a critical look at his work.

  • The World of Richard Wright (1985) by Michel Fabre

  • Richard Wright: Ordeal of a Native Son (1980) by Addison Gayle

  • Richard Wright: The Cricitcal Reception (1978), John M. Reilly, ed.

  • Richard Wright: Impressions and Perspectives (1973) by David Ray and Robert M. Farnsworth

  • The God That Failed (1972)
    The God That Failed is a classic work and crucial document of the Cold War that brings together essays by six of the most important writers of the twentieth century on their conversion to and subsequent disillusionment with communism. In describing their own experiences, the authors illustrate the fate of leftism around the world. André Gide (France), Richard Wright (the United States), Ignazio Silone (Italy), Stephen Spender (England), Arthur Koestler (Germany), and Louis Fischer, an American foreign correspondent, all tell how their search for the betterment of humanity led them to communism, and the personal agony and revulsion which then caused them to reject it. David Engerman's new foreword to this central work of our time recounts the tumultuous events of the era, providing essential background. It also describes the book's origins and impact, the influence of communism in American intellectual life, and how the events described in The God That Failed provide important lessons today.

  • The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, 1899-1967 (1969), Langston Hughes, ed.
    Includes works by Alice Walker, Frank Yerby, Gwendolyn Brooks, James Baldwin, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, and others.

  • Richard Wright: A Biography (1968) by Constance Webb

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