Native Son (Wright)

Author Bio 
Birth—September 4, 1908
Where—Near Natchez, Mississippi, USA
Death—November 28, 1960
Where—Paris, France
Education—Smith-Robertson Junior High, Jackson, Mississippi


The first 20th century African-American writer to command both critical acclaim and broad popular success, Richard Wright was born on a plantation outside of Roxie, Mississippi in 1908. In 1937 he moved to New York to make his way as a professional writer and in 1938 he published Uncle Tom's Children, a collection of four short novels about the violent persecution of black men in the South. Harper and Brothers published Native Son two years later to immediate acclaim and phenomenal sales. Black Boy was even more successful when it appeared in 1945, selling more than 500,000 copies in its first year.

Despite his success, Wright continued to feel stifled by racial prejudice. Convinced that he could find greater freedom abroad, Wright moved to Paris in 1947 with his wife, an American woman of Polish-Jewish descent, and their young daughter. He quickly made contact with leading French existentialists and began reading deeply in the works of Sartre, Camus, and Heidegger. In the fiction he composed in France, Wright tried to view racial issues from an existentialist perspective.

When he died suddenly of a heart attack in Paris in 1960, Wright was considered a marginal figure—an expatriate novelist whose works had lost favor with a younger generation of African-American intellectuals. But the emergence of the black power movement in the 1960s sparked a major reassessment of Wright as both an innovative prose stylist and militant social critic. Today Richard Wright is widely recognized as one of the great American writers of the 20th century. (From the publisher.)

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