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Richard Wright

Richard Wright was born in 1908 and died suddenly from a heart attack in 1960. His birthplace was a plantation outside Natchez, Mississippi. His father, Nathan Wright, was a sharecropper, and his mother, Ella, was a country schoolteacher. The boy grew up in one of the most poverty-stricken and rigidly segregated parts of the South, an experience that certainly marked his work as a writer. The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1914 in search of better employment. Nathan then worked as a night porter in a hotel, while Ella worked as a cook for a white family. The family was left destitute when Nathan left Ella for another woman, and in 1915 Ella contracted an illness that eventually made her an invalid for the rest of he life. The family--Richard, his other and brother--moved to Jackson, Mississippi to live with Ella's mother, and later to Elaine, Arkansas to live with Ella's sister and her husband, Silas Hoskins. The family was forced to move again when Silas was murdered by whites who also threatened to kill the entire family. Richard's schooling during all these moves and the subsequent period of moving from place to place was sporadic. He also became acutely aware during this period of Southern fascism and violence (Butler xi).

From 1918 to 1925 there was a period of serious and widespread racial discrimination against blacks, and the Klan was revived throughout the South. Richard managed to attend, with many interruptions, public and Seventh Day Adventist schools, and in 1923 he entered a Smith-Robertson Public School, where he graduated as valedictorian in 1925. He began to read widely in 1926 and was interested in H.L. Mencken's writings criticizing American society and modern life, and he also turned to such American naturalists as Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and Sinclair Lewis as well as European realists like Henrik Ibsen, Emile Zola, and Fyodor Dostoevski. It was during this period in Memphis that...

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Richard Wright. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:02, March 19, 2019, from