Richard Wright (September 4, 1908) On this date in 1908, Richard Wright was born in Natchez, Mississippi, to Nathaniel Wright, a sharecropper, and Ella Wilson, a schoolteacher. Wright was raised primarily by his mother, after his father abandoned the family when he was five. Although he left school after the ninth grade to help support the family, it was apparent fairly early that he had writing talent. He published his first short story, “The Voodoo of Hell’s Half-Acre,” in an African American newspaper when he was 16 years old. In 1927, he moved to Chicago and found work in the post office, but had to resort to temporary jobs once the Great Depression descended on the United States. Wright rejected American capitalism and joined the Communist Party in 1932. He began publishing essays, short stories, and poems in various left-leaning journals. In 1937, he moved to New York City, where he eventually became an editor for the Daily Worker and New Challenge. In 1938 and 1940 respectively, he published Uncle Tom’s Children and Native Son, two of his most prominent works. Wright married Dhima Rose Meadman in 1939, but they soon divorced, and in 1941, he married Ellen Poplar, with whom he had two daughters. He slowly grew disillusioned with the Communist Party and left the group in 1944. He continued to write, producing Black Boy, an account of his early experiences as an African American, in 1945. Tired of the prevalence of blatant racism in the United States, he and his family relocated to Paris, France, in 1947, and he remained there the rest of his life. In France, he published several more works, though they did not achieve the same recognition as his earlier creations. He passed away at the age of 52, due to a heart attack. D. 1960.
“I have no religion in the formal sense of the word . . . I have no race except that which is forced upon me. I have no country except that to which I'm obliged to belong. I have no traditions. I'm free. I have only the future.”
—-Richard Wright, Pagan Spain (1957)
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