The Meaning of Being African American for Richard Wright

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Deanna Milano
Writing 102
May 2, 2006
Research Paper

The meaning of being African American for Richard Wright

Racial discrimination has been rooted deeply in the United States and saturated into every aspect of society. A racist outlook assumes that the human species can be meaningfully separated into races, a viewpoint that is often coupled with hostility toward people of other races. For most of the 20th century, African Americans specifically experienced the worst kind of violation of human rights and a loss of human dignity. The fight for their freedom and to live equally among all races was inevitably hard. However, for Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and many other African-Americans, letting go of what they were entitled to would not obstruct them. In retrospect, Richard Wright's insights from his childhood helped him generalize his own experiences and draw conclusions about the conduct in which society functions. Richard Wright became a distinctive African American author and brought in a multiracial audience. Wright took a risk of publishing his works during the time that racial discrimination was even more predominant than the decades of the 1960's and 1970's. Richard Wright not only wrote works like: Native Son, The Man Who Was Almost a Man, and Black Boy, but he lived through his works. He revealed to readers the truth about racism and discrimination and the hardships and obstacles, that were needed to overcome his entire life as well as other races in this predicament.

Richard Wright, a Negro, was born on a plantation of a sharecropper couple in 1908. He dealt with many hardships from a young age. When he was five his father deserted his family and his mother only a few short years later suffered a series of strokes, soon leaving her paralysed and incapable of doing much. Richard found himself jumping from city to city, house to house, being separated from his brother and ill mother. He attended school as much as he could but at early age began to work, by 9th grade he dropped out. As he got older, he found a job working for the Daily Worker, a communist paper. This job opened Wright to many new possibilities. He soon published his first works within a few years, emerging during a period of racial oppression and economic hardship, becoming widely known as a African American author/writer and a spokesman on behalf of the injustice his race faced.

African Americans had been persecuted in the eyes of the colonial America for hundred of years. Richard was fortunate to surpass slavery, but he still faced the realization in this era, that he was a part of a race, still treated unfairly and with little to no rights. The fear of accidentally speaking something or even appearing ‘superior' than the white race was still much in affect. Richard Wright wrote in 1940, Native Son, a story broken into three pieces: Fear, Flight, and Fate. It tells a story of a African American man, Bigger Thomas, who lived in the slum conditions of the South during the Depression. Bigger's pride and anger force him to suffice to a criminal life, where by pure accident he murders a white girl and for him to cover it up, he only finds himself in worse conditions and his fate leading to death. In Native Son Bigger Thomas does what he can to survive, if that means living a criminal life. He originally planned with his ‘gang' to rob Blum's Deli, something enough to make him ‘appear tough' and allow him to be feared, Bigger takes out his knife, "Why are you afraid to rob a white man? (Native Son, 38)." Bigger questions his friend Gus because it seems he did not want to go through it. Bigger feels he has power over his friends and taking out a knife shows he serious and means business. Many African Americans felt having weapons left them with power and security but was that really the answer? Bigger might have seemed tough and powerful around his friends, but he found himself ‘nervous' and even...
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