I will be picking for the month of April a favorite American classic titled Black Boy by Richard Wright. Again, I am fairly certain an average reader of my post has read the book because of its worldwide popularity and its immense significance for the African Americans as a historical testament and an artistic masterpiece.

Part fiction, part memoir, Richard Wright delivered a moving drama of his life as a black boy born in the dark period of segregation. A story filled with vivid recollections of what it was to be born into the black race in America shortly after WWII, Richard Wright succeeded in painting his life story with ink that remains extant today, many years after the author’s death and decades after emancipation.

Black Boy was intended to be a protest fiction, although not in the scathing way the Native Son was. It begins with Richard’s family moving in with her maternal grandmother, after his dad left them and his mother took ill. It was here, in the south, that Richard and his little brother saw what it really was to be a black boy in white America.  From the constant hunger in their stomach, the constant corrections of their near-white grandmother (who for the life of her asserted that “fiction is evil” and so discouraged reading in her house), the constant struggle for survival in a volatile system that repressed black aspirations, the constant pranks and wiles of childhood; all these merged together in the book to present a panorama that will leave you glued its pages.

The success of Black Boy as a book is chiefly the result of the techniques used by Richard Wright to portray his story. A deamonic genius, I love the way he reflected, using flashbacks that seemed present and his poetic delivery of the nuances that characterized black life in racist America. I also respect the way he used parallelism to emphasize his points, drawing comparison through irony and humor and in that way registering his protest in subtle but successful ways. Richard Wright’s Black Boy is just too good to be relived. It is a book with many images and memories that stuck with me.

Of the many stories that enlivened the book, my most favorite involved the ruse Richard evolved in order to borrow books from the library. Using a doctored library card, he was able to evade detection from the white librarian simply because of stereotype notion white men had of blacks generally-That they don’t (or can’t) read.  It was this bravery and courage to get knowledge by all means possible that gives me the opportunity to talk about his book today, and which empowered him enough to state the case for his race in trenchant language that eventually shook the white man’s world and paved way for constructive renegotiation between the races.

I am still waiting to read a 21st Century African-American writer with the voice like that of Richard Wright- a voice so brilliant, so vocal, so vindictive yet so sublime as to percolate the mesh of misunderstanding in the human mind and excite it like a school of plankton set aglow at night.

Make sure you get the Black Boy and read it again. Celebrate American classics with me. Cheers!!!

Rosalie Banks

Author, Teacher, Naughty-Girl

Make sure you get the Black Boy and read it again. Celebrate American classics with me. Cheers!!!

Rosalie Banks

Author, Teacher, Naughty-Girl


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