Monday, February 07, 2005

KeShawn Highlight Richard Wright for Black History Month

KeShawn: I would like to highlight Richard Wright.

*Richard Wright was born on September 4, 1908 in Natchez, Mississippi
*His father was a share cropper and his mother had been a teacher
*In 1924, his first story was printed by the black press (The Jackson Southern Register)
*In 1927, he moved to Chicago and became active in the struggle for equality and joined the Communist party. He moves to Chicago hoping that up north, he can escape from the racism he has seen in the south.
*He wrote articles and stories for The DailyWorker and The New Masses
*"Superstition" was his very first major short story and it was published in 1931 in Abbot's Monthly
*1937, he moves to New York City and becomes the Harlem editor of The Daily Worker
*1938, he has four short stories published in the book collection Uncle Tom's Children
*With Ralph Ellison standing up his best man, Richard Wright marries the white ballet dancer Dhima Rose Meadman. He is awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship.
*Native Son, a classic, is published in 1940 as his marriage fails
*Wright marries a second time in 1941 to Ellen Poplar who is white and a Communist organizer.
The Springham Medal was awarded to Wright from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for his book Native Son. Count Basie and his orchestra record Wright's song "King Joe" with Paul Robeson on lead vocal. The FBI begins investigating Richard Wright.
*1945, Wright's second classic is published. Black Boy, like Native Son before, is a best seller.
*As a leading intellectual and novelist, Wright travels to France in 1946 and meets many people who share his beliefs in the power of art
*Finding racism still a barrier in the United States, Wright decides to move his family (Ellen and his daughter Julia) to Paris in 1947 not long after Hollywood wants to turn Native Son into a film if they can make the character Bigger Thomas white. Wright refuses.
*He will work on the screenplay for Native Son and perform in the film (as Bigger Thomas) and he and Ellen have a second daughter (Rachel).
*He refuses to return to the US in 1952 due to McCarthyism and he is on a blacklist.
*He grows more concerned about the conditions in third world and will travel to places like the Gold Coast of Africa and Spain. He sees racism as a major barrier between the first and third world countries and he works in the Pan-African movement.
*He continues to publish work, both fiction (The Outsider) and nonfiction ( Black Power: A Record of Reactions in a Land of Pathos).
*In 1959, he meets with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
*In 1960, he dies. But as part of the Harlem Renaissance, he has created a literary legacy and as a powerful advocate for equality he has helped to lay the groundwork for the civil rights movements of the 1960. "Words can be weapons," he once wrote and Wright used his gift in the struggle for equality.