Richard Wright was born in 1908.
Author Richard Wright was born into poverty on Rucker's Plantation, just east of Natchez, Mississippi, in 1908. Wright was a novelist, short-story author, and poet as well as an author of protest literature. His best-known works, Native Son and Black Boy, established him as an important spokesperson for the conditions of African Americans, and through his writings, Wright challenged readers to question and change the treatment of African Americans in the United States.
Wright's Black Boy is an autobiography filled with incidents that are harrowing, funny, tender, and true-to-life. Have students read an excerpt from the novel that you think is appropriate for their grade level. One that might work best for grades 8-12 is available at the publisher's site.
After reading that excerpt, which recounts an incident when four-year-old Richard gets mad and does something for which he gets into trouble, ask students to:
- describe how they feel about Richard's actions
- identify words and phrases that are particularly descriptive
- write a similar narrative about a time when they got mad and/or got in trouble for something they had done wrong.
Alternately, ask students to write found poems after reading the passage, using the lesson plan below.
Contributing Editor John M. Reilly provides useful classroom strategies as well as background information on Wright's "The Man Who Was Almost a Man" in this companion to the Heath Anthology of American Literature.
This collection of resources from the Modern American Poetry website includes biographical information, photos, background information, and samples of Wright's writing.
The Mississippi Writers Page includes biographical information, a bibliography, and links to additional resources.
A part of WNYC’s work on the NEH Annotation Project, this page includes an audio recording of Richard Wright describing his arrival in France and his reflections on Paris as well as biographical information that contextualizes the recording.