Black Boy

Black Boy
Main Characters
Richard Wright, a black boy growing up amid racism and poverty, yearns for basic human dignity. In spite of resistance from his family, his friends, and the culture of the Jim Crow South, he develops into a proud, self-educated young man who dreams big. He moves north and, despite more poverty and racism, becomes a well-known author.
The culture of the Jim Crow South keeps Wright poor, hungry, and undereducated.
Wright makes mistakes that often worsen his life, as happens when he accidentally burns down his grandparents' house.
Wright educates himself by reading and writing, ultimately achieving his dream of becoming a published author.
Wright faces physical abuse at home and violence from white racists while also fighting with peers on the streets.
Going North
Although Wright continues to grapple with racism after leaving the South, moving to the North brings him greater opportunities.
After a childhood of social isolation, Wright briefly finds community and friendship among the members of the Chicago Communist Party.
Richard Wright
Young African American man; searches for meaning in life
Ella Wright
Proud but flawed woman; suffers a stroke and becomes dependent on Richard
Alan Wright
A stranger during Richard's childhood; a dependent in adulthood
Harsh matriarch; tries to control Richard with religion
Highest grade Wright completed in school
Age at which Wright published his first story
Money Wright received for the publication of his first story
Years Wright was a member of the Communist Party—from 1932-44
Symbolizes the "meaningless suffering" of racism, violence, and poverty
The North
Signifies hope for a better life in an unknown place
Represents the desire for human dignity and unrestricted self-expression
Richard Wright 1908-60
Wright was a brilliant writer who grew up in the Jim Crow South and achieved critical acclaim despite little formal education. Wright's unflinching descriptions helped the rest of the country gain awareness of the struggles faced by working-class African Americans.