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Black Boy

Richard Wright's Black Boy is a fictionalized memoir that span's his youth into adulthood. The book is structured in two parts. Part I "Southern Night" covers Wright's youth growing up as a black child in the south. Part II "The Horror and the Glory" brings Wright to Chicago in his early adulthood.

We meet Wright at the beginning of the novel, a precocious four-year old boy who sets fire to his home. Wright is more comfortable getting lost in his books than he is playing with the other kids. He ends up rejecting religion and becomes an atheist as a child. As he grows older, Richard becomes aware of racism in the 1920's south. His father ends up abandoning his family, leading Richard to be moved between his sick mother, several aunts and uncles, and his overly religious grandmother. Because his family views the north as a place where they will find more opportunity and less racism, Richard and his aunt save enough money to move to Chicago. They promise to send for his brother and mother as soon as they can afford.

While in Chicago Richard forms further opinions about race relations in America, fueled by his experience of the north being less racist than the south. His family continues to be bothered and perplexed by his intellectual leanings and insistence on reading. They don’t see the point of it. In fact most of the jobs Richard holds are menial jobs such as janitorial work. His family also continues to be bothered by his atheism. During this time period, Richard meets a group of white men who share his philosophies. They invite him to join a club that promotes arts and social change. This leads to Richard becoming involved in the Communist party, where he organizes its writers and artists, and a magazine called Left Front.

While Richard expects to find friendship and camaraderie in the Communist party, he soon finds out that these people are just as afraid of change as the people were in the south. The Communist party fears a person who disagree with them, which doesn't bode well for Richard, whose natural tendency is to question everything. As a result, the party begins to accuse Richard of being a "counter-revolutionary." Wright ends up abandoning the party as a result. They threaten him and try to prevent him from getting work. Still, Richard doesn't really fight them because in the end he agrees with their principles, unity, tolerance and equality, just not the way they are going about it. In the end, Richard commits to using his writing as a way to start his own personal revolution.

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