Richard Wright, Black Boy

Professor Amy Hungerford at Yale University continues her discussion of Richard Wright’s classic American autobiography, Black Boy. Through a close analysis of key passages, she demonstrates an oscillation in the narrative between the socioeconomic deprivations and racial jeopardy confronting its characters, and the compensations to be found in sensual experience, the imagination, and in particular, the power of words. Dramatizing the editorial struggle evident in letters between Wright and Book-of-the-Month-Club-President Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Professor Hungerford shows the high stakes of Wright’s uncompromising portrait of America’s failed ideals at a time when those ideals are being tested during the Second World War.