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Week 5

Richard Wright Black Boy (1945)

9.30 seminar only: Please post two sentences on the forum by Tuesday of week 5; one statement about Black Boy, and one question. 

Please read

Jerry W. Ward Jr. "Everybody's Protest Novel: the Richard Wright Era." The Cambridge Companion to The African American Novel. Ed. Maryemma Graham. CUP, 2004, 173-188.

C W E Bigsby & Roger Thompson.  “The Black Experience.”   Eds. Malcolm Bradbury & Howard Temperley. Introduction to American Studies. Third edition. Longman, 1998, 150-177. 

You might find it useful to read my lecture on Ralph Ellison this week, since it refers to Richard Wright as well:

Please consider the following questions:
  • In what ways does Richard Wright draw on a tradition of African American autobiographical writing; e.g. the Narrative of Frederick Douglass?

  • In what ways does Richard Wright craft his work: is it in any way a “representative” autobiography?

  • Identify specific aspects of literary style deployed by Richard Wright in his autobiography.

  • Does protest writing only deploy the style of social realism?

Recommended Reading 

James Baldwin. "Everybody's Protest Novel." Notes of a Native Son. first published 1955.

Robert Young. "The Politics of Reading Richard Wright: Black Boy as Ideological Critique."   Western Journal of Black Studies. 29 , 4 (Winter 2005) : 694-712: durable URL:

Carolyn Camp. "The Rhetoric of Catalogues in Richard Wright's Black Boy." MELUS. 17, 4 (Winter, 1991 - Winter, 1992): 29-39: stable URL:

Further resources

The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature: Richard Wright entry

Project on the History of Black Writing: Making the Wright Connection:

Excerpt from RICHARD WRIGHT: Native Son, Author and Activist from the Black American Experience series from TMW Media:


Remember that we also have a workshop in the Capital Rehearsal Room at IATL (previously known as the Capital Centre) on Friday morning this week. Friday 10.00-12.00.  We shall be working on Black Boy and the opening of Invisible Man.  (I'll provide copies of the latter if you haven't already got yours.) Workshop title: Race: Trope &/or Reality?