Black Boy by Richard Wright




Title:  Black Boy

Author: Richard Wright

Published by: Longman

Publication year: 1970


It would have been so good if Anne Moody waited for Richard before she got her book published two years before Richard published this title of his. Well, just a joke by the way. But then, I’ve only come to notice the close similarities between Richard’s Black Boy and Anne Moody’s Coming of Age in Mississippi.

The Black Boy sets in the black populated city of Mississippi where killing and lynching of Black folks was just the order of the day. The beautiful thing about this autobiographical account of Richard Wright’s life is the fact that, it holds close similarities with Anne Moody’s ‘Coming of age in Mississippi’. It is so much of an American story with imagery mostly related to America, (partly Africa, where the theme of suffering might just be concerned) Americans and might be so hard for one outside the United States to come to its full understanding.

In treating this book, lots of comparisons will be done relating Black boy by Richard Wright with Coming of age in Mississippi by Anne Moody. The initial chapters of this book preface on a ground of horror, pain, future uncertainty and feelings of sufferings where a black boy was made to know hardship at a time when he could hardly differentiate from his right to his left. The turns and consistent emotional torture meted on the black folks wherein he lives alongside abuse by the white bosses sets in young Richard a sense of coercion (even on real-life events and his thought) showing superiority to whites only, while the blacks remain at their (whites) mercy. The seed of coercion planted in Richard by several racial prejudicial happenings in his environment also becomes part of Richard. I ever wonder in the course of this autobiographical account, how a young teenage boy can put up courage and attempt stabbing or threatening an adult with knives.

Oppression and hostility on the black minority seem to be the order of the day thereby leading little Richard to learn to curse before he could read. Just as Anne Moody also had her own account, one can quite agree that severe hardship alongside ill-treatment was predominantly constant amongst the black folks in the early American days so much that the whites were treated with much reverence, while words from the black folks were meticulously selected when addressing them and even their young ones. The effect of several cases of ill-treatment on blacks soon becomes part of Richard’s subconscious when he naively thought; P.19 the white folks have got the right to beat Black kids, thus thinking that the right black parents have is only the parental.

The way children or youngsters will go arguably is dependent on the availability of their parent to foster learning and several teachings per time. In Richard’s case where his mother who ineffectively plays the role of the father became ill, Richard just had to live his life following his special ‘design’. Of course, you all will agree, these designs were never pleasant at all.

Racial prejudice which seems to be the main theme of this book stood gallantly still as far as the book is concerned. It was so much that Richard’s mum was stretched out of the hospital in a pretence to be lifeless and then to an ambulance. Reason being that, there wasn’t any hospital facility for the coloured people. Availability of better jobs, social amenities was also racially controlled such that the blacks were restricted from getting certain jobs. It even got so bad that blacks were not allowed to go borrow books. And at this point, I had a picture of how crazy racial discrimination could be. In her own write-up, Anne Moody gives insights on her personal experiences as well. In a portion of the book, she recounts how Negro students nursed fear on realising that there were a lot of white kids in some colleges they were going.

Richard alongside Anne Moody delves into exploring an autobiography right from their formative years up till when they both became an adult, thus narrating from a time when the readers could be cleverly carried along. The duo authors were brought to limelight due to their prolonged curiosity to know why the black minorities were deprived in partaking of the American dream. These might have just been the reason why Richard starts reading about several authors he came across in some of his reading times, authors who also had some of their articles opposing the Jim Crow’s laws. Anne also advocates for the right of the black folks by joining the NAACP movement which later translates into the Woolworth’s sit-in demonstration (that which gave her much popularity).

Even though Richard Wright was more focused on voicing out his opinion (which he never did at the end of the book) on the Jim Crow’s obnoxious rules via his literary skills, but then Anne took to the streets and challenged the ‘challengeable’ and becoming an orator and a strong activist who became part of a strong movement (alongside the likes of Medgar, Martin Luther King Jnr. and others) for the proclamation of the black’s right. Richard can be seen as the more curious type compared with Anne. He wants to know more, ask more, read more and see more of happenings which were not to the merit of the black folks.

After a vivid look into their personality, one can successfully determine the temperament of both authors. Of course, they’ve both got an element of being choleric. They are both given to asking questions and wanting to correct the obnoxious laws which restrict black’s right and was never in favour of the Black-Americans. Richard most especially did this until he was told to mind his business if he really wants to live and be successful. (Same was said to Anne moody, then she took a break from Canton to New Orleans).

Richard Wright’s black Boy is an  autobiographical account that projects the dealings of the white majority with the black minority in a country where equal rights were withheld, thus leading to a divided society pioneered by intentional hate for the poor black folks. It is yet another good book that tells the difference between being courageous to the rise of our countrymen and that which opens the eyes of the entire public to our historical heritage.


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