Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth
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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.
He was afraid. I did not know what to do. “You asked me to march here,” I said to him. He did not answer. “Tell him that you did invite me,” I said, pulling his sleeve. “I’m asking you for the last time to get out of our ranks!” Cy Perry shouted. I did not move. I had intended to, but I was beset by so many impulses that I could not act. Another white Communist came to assist Perry. Perry caught hold of my collar and pulled at me. I resisted. They held me fast. I struggled to free myself.
darkness. “If you’ve got eyes, you can see what color she is,” my mother said. “I mean, do the white folks think she’s white?” “Why don’t you ask the white folks that?” she countered. “But you know,” I insisted. “Why should I know?” she asked. “I’m not white.” “Granny looks white,” I said, hoping to establish one fact, at least. “Then why is she living with us colored folks?” “Don’t you want Granny to live with us?” she asked, blunting my question. “Yes.” “Then why are you asking?” “I
that if the family was compassionate enough to feed me, then the least I could do in return was to follow its guidance. She proposed that, when the fall school term started, I should be enrolled in the religious school rather than a secular one. If I refused, I was placing myself not only in the position of a horrible infidel but of a hardhearted ingrate. I raised arguments and objections, but my mother sided with Granny and Aunt Addie and I had to accept. The religious school opened and I put
munch a sandwich and Granny would nod her permission for me to take a nap. I would awaken at intervals to hear snatches of hymns or prayers that would lull me to sleep again. Finally Granny would shake me and I would open my eyes and see the sun streaming through stained-glass windows. Many of the religious symbols appealed to my sensibilities and I responded to the dramatic vision of life held by the church, feeling that to live day by day with death as one’s sole thought was to be so
moment. “Did a white man ask you to sell these papers?” he asked. “No, sir,” I answered, puzzled now. “Why do you ask?” “Do your folks know you are selling these papers?” “Yes, sir. But what’s wrong?” “How did you know where to write for these papers?” he asked, ignoring my questions. “A friend of mine sells them. He gave me the address.” “Is this friend of yours a white man?” “No, sir. He’s colored. But why are you asking me all this?” He did not answer. He was sitting on the steps of