Black Boy by Richard Wright

BACKGROUND

This book is an autobiography by Richard Wright. The book goes from Wright’s earliest childhood memories through until he was nineteen. He is an important black author who also wrote a book called Native SonBlack Boy is a story of racism and struggle, but also about strength.

MAIN CHARACTERS

Richard Wright: He’s the main dude of the story. He takes on two personalities in this book a younger kid and an older man. When he calls himself "Richard," he’s talking about himself as a kid. When he calls himself "Wright," he’s talking about himself as an older guy. Richard loves to read and hates religion.

Richard’s mom: She’s a poor single mom. She has a stroke when Richard is young.

Richard’s Granny: She is a religious nut. But she is very nice. She takes care of the family when Richard’s mom has a stroke. She imposes lots of rules on Richard that he hates.

Richard’s dad: He abandoned the family.

Aunt Maggie: A nice woman.

Aunt Addie: Strict and religious lady.

Uncle Hoskins: Rich business guy who is killed because he’s black.

Uncle Clark: Nice rich guy who buys Richard stuff.

Uncle Tom: Poor guy who lives in Richard’s house.

Uncle Matthews: He commits and crime and in put in jail.

PLOT

Richard is a young boy ain Mississippi. He burns down his Grandmother's house. Growing up, he likes to read more than play with other kids. He grows up around a lot of religous woman but he rejects the church and is an atheist, When he gets older, he sees all kind of racism and no one wants him to get educated and be smart. His dad bails on his mother and he lives with a bunch of different family. His family is so poor and he has to try to get work. He experiences all kind of racism and brutality because he is black. Richard and his aunt decide to move to Chicago because the south is so bad. He has to steal to get the money to go up there.

The north is less racist than the south and Richard gets crappy obs and reads a lot at night. He eventually gets a job at the post office and meets some white dudes who thnk the world is kind of shitty and needs to be fixed up. They invite him to join a club that is into art and changing the social order. He also becomes a communist.

Eventually, Richard runs into issues in the communist party because he is a thinker and doesn't like to just do what he is told. The commies get all mad at him and decide he is a against them. Richard decides to leave the party but he still likes what they are trying to do. He decides to use writing to change things.

CHAPTER BY CHAPTER

CHAPTER 1

  • Richard and his family live in Natchez, Mississippi.
  • Richard plays with straw from a broom. He throws pieces of straw into the fire and takes a piece of straw and burns the curtains.
  • The house burns down. Richard is afraid his mom will be VERY mad at him so he hides. The family escapes the fire
  • Richard’s mom finds him and beats the crap out of him.
  • Richard talks about how he hates his dad. One day his dad tells him (jokingly) to kill a cat because it is too loud. Richard rebels against him by actually killing the cat.
  • His mom makes him bury the cat.
  • Richard talks about how his dad left the family. He hates that because they were poor and hungry and Richard had to act like an adult.
  • The family moves to Memphis. Richard’s mom works in white people’s homes.
  • Richard’s mom is poor and sends Richard to an orphanage because she can’t afford to feed him. He runs away from it, but gets caught by some cops and gets returned.
  • Richard’s mom takes him to his dad’s house to try and get money personally. Richard’s dad says no.
  • Richard is scared by a story he hears about a white guy beating up some black kid.
  • At the end of this chapter the author talks about how he visited his dad when he was older and how his dad is a scumbag.

CHAPTER 2

  • Richard and his family move again. Richard’s mom makes him say goodbye to the kids at the orphanage.
  • They go to live at grandma’s house in Jackson, Mississippi.
  • Richard meets a girl who lives there named Ella. She can read and Richard asks her to read to him. His granny catches him (she thinks books are evil).
  • One day, Richard’s granny is washing him and when she scrubs his ass he asks her to kiss it. Then he gets beaten up by his mom and grandma for what he did.
  • They move to Uncle Hoskins and Aunt Maggie’s house. They take a train there. Blacks and whites sit separately.
  • Richard notices how much racism there is in the south.
  • One day Uncle Hoskins gets killed at a bar by a white dude who wants his business. The white dudes tell Richard and his family that they are next to die. Richard and his family leave town. Aunt Maggie joins them.
  • They move back to Granny’s. Richard hates this because granny’s house has no food. Aunt Maggie’s house had lots of food.
  • Richard thinks about how racism got his Uncle killed and got his family poor again.
  • The family gets sick of Granny and her religious crap, so they move to a place called West Helena.
  • Richard gets caught looking at some hookers in a whorehouse. The family is forced to move again. They move in with Uncle Matthews.
  • One night Uncle Matthews robs and kills a white chick. They are poor again because Matthews can’t make money now that he is in jail.
  • Richard gets a poodle from Uncle Matthews. He tries to sell it to white folks but chickens out.

CHAPTER 3

  • Richard hangs out with black kids and they all talk crap about white people.
  • Richard’s mom gets sick and can’t work., Richard has to take some jobs to make $4 for the family.
  • Richard’s mom has a stroke. Richard is scared because he loves his mom.
  • Richard goes to live with his Uncle Clark while his mom is sick. He hates staying there. He goes back to live with Granny.
  • His mom goes into a hospital. The doctors sneak her in because the hospital is racist.

CHAPTER 4

  • Richard hates staying with his granny. She tries to force religion down his throat but Richard does not give in.
  • Richard is sent to some religious school. His Aunt Addie is his teacher. She yells at him a lot and beats him. One day Richard stands up for himself with a knife. She never bothers him again.
  • Everyone in the family tries to make Richard a believer in God. He doesn’t want to.
  • He tells his granny that if he sees an angel, he’ll convert. His granny thinks he has seen an angel, but he hasn’t.
  • Richard writes some story about an Indian. The girl next door reads it.

CHAPTER 5

  • Richard goes back to public school. He gets in fights. His granny won’t let him get a job so he never has lunch money.
  • Richard gets a job selling newspaper. Then he finds out it is a paper run by the KKK. He quits.
  • He gets a job helping some guy sell insurance to farmers.
  • Richard’s grandfather dies. His granny won’t let him work on Saturdays. He rebels, stands up for himself, and wins.

CHAPTER 6

  • Richard continues to work with white people. He gets a job working as a houseboy for some white chick. She laughs at him because he says he wants to be a writer. So he leaves that job.
  • Richard thinks about how much he is in the white world now, and how different he is from blacks (he reads, goes to school, etc.).
  • Richard is forced to be baptized at the Methodist church.
  • The family is poor so they ask Uncle Tom to move in and help out financially. Richards hates Uncle Tom.
  • Uncle Tom wants to beat up Richard, but Richard stands up for himself. He tells Uncle Tom how much Tom’s life sucks.

CHAPTER 7

  • Richard has some crappy job being a waterboy at a brickyard. A dog bites him.
  • School starts up again. Richard writes a story called "The Voodoo of Hell’s Half-Acre" which is published by a local black newspaper.
  • His family hates the story and calls it a lie. The story is about southern racism.

CHAPTER 8

  • One of Richard’s classmates gets killed because he got in on with a white hooker. Richard is now afraid of white people.
  • Richard’s family still hates him.
  • Richard graduates from 9th grade and is the valedictorian. The principal gives him a speech to say but Richard writes his own. Everyone disagrees with his decision.

CHAPTER 9

  • After he finishes school, Richard gets a job in a clothing store. He sees a black woman get beaten up because she didn’t pay her bill.
  • One day Richard gets with some white guys. He is beaten up because he forgets to call them sir.
  • Richard gets fired because his boss doesn’t like him or the "look in his eyes."
  • One of Richard’s friends tells him to act like a regular black guy and not show his real feelings.
  • Richard’s friends get him a job at some optical company. Richard meets two workers called Pease and Reynolds. They are jerks to him.
  • One day Reynolds says that Richard didn’t call Pease "Mr. Pease," so Richard is caught because he either has to admit guilt or call Reynolds a liar. He quits.
  • Richard fears the men might kill him so he leaves the job and doesn’t come back.

CHAPTER 10

  • Richard really wants to get in with white people. He hates all this racism going on.
  • He gets a job at a drugstore. He gets fired because he can’t do anything right.
  • Richard gets a job at a hotel. He sees black people and doesn’t like how they act or think. He hates how they accept racism.
  • Richard takes a few more jobs. Then he starts selling booze illegally. He thinks about stealing money so he can move up north. He steals money, and pawns some stuff.
  • He hates stealing because he knows that white people like black people to steal because then they have proof that blacks are criminals and a "lower class."

Chapter 11

  • Richard goes to Memphis.
  • He lives in some boarding house.
  • His landlord is Mrs. Moss. She wants Richard to hook up with her daughter, Bess.
  • Richard and Bess hang out and make out. She tells him she loves him. He tells her that he has to get to know her better first. She gets hurt and runs away.
  • Richard adapts to Memphis.

CHAPTER 12

  • Richard gets another job at an optical company.
  • Richard thinks that there’s not as much racism in Memphis as there was in Mississippi
  • Richard sees three racial incidents: a black man who lets white men hit him for money, a white guy who offers to give Richard money for food (Richard is too damn proud to accept charity), and the issue with his white boss.
  • Richard’s boss tries to get him and this other black employee from another company to fight. He lies to get them to hate each other. Richard and the other guy find out. They box and promise not to hurt each other. Once they get in the ring though they kick the crap out of one another.

CHAPTER 13

  • Richard reads a newspaper article about an author named H.L. Mencken. He is a white dude who is hated by Southerners.
  • Richard wants to take out Mencken’s books from the library. He has to use a white guy’s library card and lie to get the books out.
  • Richard likes the books. He likes that he uses words to fight battles.
  • Richard’s mom and brother come to Memphis. Richard is confused as to what to do in life now. He can either be a southern black and live with racism or fight back.

CHAPTER 14

  • Aunt Maggie comes to Memphis.
  • Richard and his aunt move to Chicago.
  • On the train Richard thinks about his life.
  • The rest of the chapter talks about how he was convinced to rebel by reading books.

THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART

  • The main issue addressed is racism. Richard is appalled by all of the racism that surrounds him in the white South.
  • Not only is Richard surrounded by racism from whites, but also by blacks. His family is racist against Richard wanting to be with whites and reading and learning.
  • Remember, this book is an autobiography. It is written by Richard Wright as an older man about when he was a teenager.
  • Wright had to struggle to get where he is today, but found the strength to keep moving in a positive direction.
  • The other big point of this book is how much he read and how interested he was in books. Even with racism and poverty he still became an author.
  • Wright followed what he believed, in when put in physical danger. With reading and writing, he found a path to freedom.