Racism in Richard Wright's Black Boy Essays

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Racism in Wright's Black Boy

The theme of Richard Wright's autobiography Black Boy is racism. Wright

grew up in the deep South; the Jim Crow South of the early twentieth century.

From an early age Richard Wright was aware of two races, the black and the white.

Yet he never understood the relations between the two races. The fact that he

didn't understand but was always trying to, got him into trouble many times.

When in Memphis, Wright reluctantly assumed the role society dictated for him,

the role of a black boy. He became a black boy for the sole purpose of survival,

to make enough money to eventually move North where he could be himself.

As an innocent child Wright
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uncle was killed by white people, and Wright's aunt and another uncle were

forced to flee from the whites.

When Wright asks his mother about these incidents she tells him , "You

keep your mouth shut or the white folks Ôll get you too." As a teenager Wright

learns that a friend's brother was killed by a white man. When he hears about

this killing he seems unable to do anything other than sit and think about the

incident. Subsequently Wright's perception of the relations between blacks and

whites becomes even more negative. The whites he encounters while working are

resentful of him. They not only beat him, but try to force him to fight other

blacks. Wright sees that the whites he encounters will do anything possible to

belittle black people. Wright begins to live his entire life in fear of doing

or saying the wrong thing and thereby subjecting himself to the wrath of the

whites. He realizes that even a minor mistake in action or word could lead to

his death.

For most of his life, Wright had dreams of leaving the South. As a

young teenager he says, "I dreamed of going north and writing books, novels.

The North symbolized to me all that I had not felt and seen." (Wright pg.186 ).

In Black Boy Wright admits that his goal was not to go North, but to escape the

South. Wright
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