Richard Wright, Black Boy

Black Boy is routinely listed as Richard Wright’s autobiographical novel. But it’s important to realize that this work is not an autobiography or even a memoir: it is fiction. As such the author is free to use the elements of his life as grist for his fiction, but we should always read his story with the understanding that the events and characters in the novel may sometimes be manipulated for effect if they actually even occurred (emphasize: IF they are even remotely related to actual events).

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1940, Native Son

Native Son“Down here in Dixie we keep Negroes firmly in their places and we make them know that if they so much as touch a white woman, good or bad, they cannot live.

“When Negroes become resentful over imagined wrongs, nothing brings them to their senses so quickly as when citizens take the law into their hands and make an example out of a trouble-making nigger.

 “Crimes such as the Bigger Thomas murders could be lessened by segregating all Negroes in parks, playgrounds, cafés, theatres, and street cars. Residential segregation is imperative. Such measures tend to keep them as much as possible out of direct contact with white women and lessen their attacks against them.

“We of the South believe that the North encourages Negroes to get more education than they are organically capable of absorbing, with the result that northern Negroes are generally more unhappy and restless than those of the South. If separate schools were maintained, it would be fairly easy to limit the Negroes’ education by regulating the appropriation of moneys through city, county, and state legislative bodies.

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