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NATCHEZ: RICHARD WRIGHT

Richard WrightThere was the vague sense of the infinite as I looked down upon the yellow, dreaming waters of the Mississippi River from the verdant bluffs of Natchez. From Black Boy by Richard Wright.

Richard Wright was born on Rucker Plantation, just a few miles from Natchez, on September 4, 1908. He was the grandson of a slave and became a celebrated son of Natchez. The house Richard Wright home, Natchez.where Wright lived, early in his childhood, bears a historical marker. The highway that leads into town, an origination point for the Natchez Trace parkway, is named in Wright's honor. Wright's father Nathaniel, a sharecropper, abandoned the family after moving them to Memphis, and his mother Ella Wright, a schoolteacher, was left to support herself and her children.

Ella suffered a stroke in 1919, and she was forced to seek housing for her family with relatives back in Mississippi. Still in the middle of a turbulent young life, Richard Wright wrote his first story, The Voodoo of Hell's Half-Acre, when he was only fifteen. It was published by The Southern Register, a Mississippi newspaper for African-Americans. The emerging novelist was living with a strict grandmother in Jackson, who did not approve of his writing, but disapproval by family only intensified Wright's desire to write more.

Wright authored Uncle Tom's Children in 1938 and Native Son in 1940. He lived in Chicago and New York where he began an important friendship with Ralph Ellison. Son was the first book by an African-American writer chosen as a selection by the Book of the Month Club. The book was turned into a Broadway play directed by Orson Welles in 1941. Wright moved to Paris in 1946 and died there in 1960 within the month following his speech entitled The Position of the Negro Artist and Intellectual in American Society at the American Church in Paris. Wright's crematory urn also contained the ashes of a copy of Black Boy, the 1945 book that expressed his "vague sense of the infinite" stirred on the river bluffs of Natchez.

  Stanton Hall. Marker, childhood home of Richard Wright in Natchez.
Victorian House, Natchez.
 
 

Stanton Hall

Marker, childhood home of Richard Wright

Victorian House

 

Wright's biographer John A. Williams wrote in The Most Native of Sons, a Biography of Richard Wright: The life of a small black boy in a small country town in the Deep South could be very peaceful, as it sometimes was for Richard. Under the bright, hot summer sun, he fished with his father and his brother, walked slowly along the dusty roads, or played in the fields. Though the wounds of segregation in the Deep South and throughout the country always followed him, Wright said, I know America. I know what a great nation and people America could be but won't be until there is only one American, regardless of his color or his religion or anything else.

  Mississippi River, Natchez. A Natchez cemetery monument.
Richard Wright Memorial Highway Sign.
 
 

Mississippi River

A Natchez cemetery monument

Richard Wright Memorial Highway Sign

 

 
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