Making the Wright Connection

An Online Community for the Study of Richard Wright

New radio documentary on Native Son

Posted on September 6, 2013 | No Comments

Studio 360 presents a radio documentary on Native Son, the first to air in a series on American Icons.

American Icons: Native Son

From Studio 360:

This is the novel about racism that America couldn’t ignore.

The story of a young man in the ghetto who turns to murder was an overnight sensation. Richard Wright set out to confront white readers with the most brutal consequences of racism, and finally lay to rest the stereotype of the passive Uncle Tom — “he literally wanted to create a bigger Thomas,” one scholar argues. But some think Native Son exploited the worst stereotypes of black youth. “Is this giving me permission to go kill white women?” wondered a young Carl Hancock Rux. “Is that what we’re supposed to be doing now?”

We trace the line from Bigger Thomas to Notorious B.I.G., and visit a high school drama class acting out Native Son, and struggling to grasp the racism their grandparents experienced. With Nathan McCall, Carl Hancock Rux, and Richard Wright’s daughter, Julia Wright.

Note for Richard Wright’s 105th Birthday

Posted on September 6, 2013 | No Comments

In 1942, the psychologist Fredrick Wertham sent Richard Wright two verses, one on January 15 and the other on May 27.  The haunting lines of the first

Where men have always looked around

and searched for secrets never found,

You saw a vision, dark, profound;

You heard beneath a distant sound;

You took the lid off the Underground.

are illuminated by the second verse entitled Underground

The Freudians talk about the Id

And bring it below

But Richard Wright took off the lid

And let us see the woe

It is likely that the only works by Wright that Wertham might have read before 1942 were Uncle Tom’s Children, Native Son, and 12 Million Black Voices. His insights about Wright’s intellectual acumen are germane in discussions of Wright’s fiction and non-fiction.  Like William Blake, Wright was a visionary, one who exposed deep recesses of human consciousness.  One is not surprised that he discovered quite early that Freudian theory might conceal as much as it reveals.  Pulling off the lid and urging people to ponder material and mental damages was Wright’s forte.

On September 4, 2013, I celebrate the presence and power of Richard Wright’s mind.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

Note for the note:  Wertham’s correspondence with Wright is contained in the Wright Papers, JWJ Mss 3, Box 108, Folder 1677 at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Ward discusses Wright

Posted on March 8, 2013 | No Comments

Dr. Jerry W. Ward, Jr. recently spoke about Richard Wright’s life and works on the radio program New Orleans Wake Up.

You can listen to the full program here:

Richard Wright Screen Test for “Native Son”

Posted on October 20, 2011 | No Comments

Richard Wright’s screen test for the role of “Bigger Thomas” in Native Son (1948).

3 scenes, 2 takes each, approximately 7 1/2 minutes

“Black Boy and American Hunger: Richard Wright, Revision, and Narrative Systems”

Posted on October 20, 2011 | No Comments

John Young, Professor of English at Marshall University, shares the abstract of the paper he will present at the forthcoming MLA Annual Convention, January 5-8, 2012.

For 32 years, everyone read the wrong version of Black Boy. The only publicly available version was that which Wright revised at the request of the Book-of-the-Month Club and his influential editor at Harper & Brothers.  American Hunger, originally the second half of Wright’s autobiography, finally appeared on its own in 1977 (though sections had been serialized in 1944 and 1945, surrounding Black Boy’s original publication in the last year of the war).   HarperCollins, the current instantiation of Wright’s original publisher, now issues the “Restored” Black Boy, with revisions for the first editions now relegated to notes.  While the rhetorical marker of a “Restored” edition bestows agency on the editor’s recovery of a lost original, the “Abridged” designation elides the Book Club’s consistent muting of Wright’s sexual and political content, as if the manuscripts had simply run long.

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