Digging through Mississippi’s plethora of writers will reveal many important figures. One of these was Richard Wright, and he greatly contributed to Mississippi’s literary heritage, giving African Americans representation among Mississippi authors. He wrote short stories, novels, and poetry. From his beginnings as a sharecropper to his life in Paris, Wright showed the world what a determined person from Mississippi could do. All Union residents should express pride in his story.
Born in 1908 to sharecroppers in Roxie, Wright underwent many hardships in his early life; however, he conquered them, rising above this adversity. As a child, he lived mostly with his mother and attended school in Jackson. Although he only attended high school through the ninth grade, Wright read and wrote in much of his free time. At age 16, he had already written a short story for the Southern African American newspaper (“Richard Wright”). After school, he worked several different jobs while also studying American literature on his own. Although he did not attend college during this time, he did read books at the public library in Memphis where he lived. Because of the segregation laws at the time, African Americans could not use public libraries in this particular city. Therefore, he devised a clever trick to check out books (“Richard Wright”). Wright forged “notes so he could take out books on a white coworker’s library card” (“Richard Wright”). His thirst for knowledge was so great that he broke an unjust law in order to achieve his goals. After reading about the world at length, Wright left the South with ambitions to both see the world and change it for the better (“Richard Wright”).
In 1927, Wright moved to Chicago, however, this did not go as he had hoped, prompting him to move to New York City where he could actually pursue his dream of becoming a writer. Only a year after moving here, Wright published “Uncle Tom’s Children” in 1938. This book consists of four short stories and gave him his big break; he won $500 from Story magazine and the 1939 Guggenheim Fellowship (“Richard Wright”). In 1940, Wright published his novel “Native Son,” which has become his most well-known work. This book became an instant bestseller and was selected by the Book-of-the Month Club. In fact, this was the first book with an African American author that the club ever selected. This book also became a movie in Argentina (“Richard Wright”). Furthermore, in 1945, Wright published “Black Boy;” this book serves as his autobiography, focusing on his childhood and the racial injustice in the South. Despite these successes, Wright no longer wished to live in the United States any longer, so he moved to Paris in 1946. He wrote novels throughout the 1950s until his death in 1960. Although not as popular at the time of his death, his works live on through the decades as simply excellent (“Richard Wright”).
Mississippi boasts a plethora of literary greats, and Wright deserves a special place among them. Despite many difficulties in his life, his determination allowed him to become one of the finest authors Mississippi has produced. Furthermore, he gives African Americans representation among Mississippi authors. By knowing his story, Union residents have one more great literary figure be proud of.