Read Black Boy by Richard Wright Free Online
Book Title: Black Boy|
The author of the book: Richard Wright
Edition: Demco Media
Date of issue: January 1993
ISBN 13: 9780606004039
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 441 KB
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Reader ratings: 4.2
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Hunger. Humiliation. Hate. Hurt.
How to describe the life of a poor, uneducated boy in the Jim Crow South between the world wars? Possibly, he would have led a less vulnerable life, had he been able to tune out his intelligence and his sensitivity. Possibly, he would have fared better if he hadn't been born to see human beings beyond the colour of their skin and their power to hurt. But he was born free, and therefore a target.
A target in his own family, where he was punished for his lack of submission to the demeaning rituals of religion:
"This business of saving souls had no ethics; every human relationship was shamelessly exploited. In essence, the tribe was asking us whether we shared its feelings; if we refused to join the church, it was equivalent to saying no, to placing ourselves in the position of moral monsters."
The hierarchy of religious submission, kept in place by emotional blackmail, is mirrored in the "god-given" segregation and exploitation of African Americans by white supremacists on all levels of interaction. Keep your head down, smile and bow to the white population, and you may be spared, if you are lucky. Show a white person that you do not believe in their right to mistreat you, and you will be lynched.
Even if you submit physically to the commands of your tribe and of the white community, it is not enough. Walking upright and thinking for yourself is a danger in itself, even if you stick to the rules. As Orwell put it: you have to LOVE Big Brother.
"Thou shalt not think!"
That is the commandment that Richard Wright learns as a beaten, hungry, neglected child. You can kill and steal and drink and cheat, but you cannot think. Thinking - or putting thoughts on paper, or taking help from books to further develop thinking skills - is punishable with excommunication or death, both in the religious community of the own tribe and in the terror regime of racism.
But what are you to become if you have a sense of human dignity and social justice?
"You act around white people as if you didn't know that they are white. And they see it."
"Oh Christ, I can't be a slave", I said hopelessly.
"But you've got to eat", he said.
"Yes, I got to eat."
Following Richard Wright's path to breaking free from the dilemma of being human and having to eat is a chilling reading experience, one that reminds us why we can't shrug off the rising voices of tribalism as fringe phenomena. They are not. And they use the fact that hunger or need can drive a person to do many things. The indignity of being hungry creates the power vacuum that plays into the hands of a privileged tribe.
The miracle is that Wright survived his childhood and grew up to be able to tell his story. In that sense, it is a story of hope for humanity. If you can find a way to fake a library card to borrow books in a town where African Americans are excluded from the right to gain knowledge from reading, if you can save money to buy a train ticket out of hell, if you can find enough things worth living for to never give up, then you send a message of hope.
What was the turning point in Richard Wright's life? Storytelling! The stories he read, the stories he wrote, the stories he heard, the stories he made up for a better future. Storytelling is food for humanity!
"Yes, I got to eat."
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Read information about the authorRichard Nathaniel Wright was an African-American author of powerful, sometimes controversial novels, short stories and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerned racial themes. His work helped redefine discussions of race relations in America in the mid-20th century.
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