Black Boy | Study Guide

Richard Wright

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Black Boy | Characters

Character Description
Richard Wright Richard Wright, the narrator and main character of Black Boy, struggles with poverty, violence, hunger, and racism as he tries to achieve a life of meaning and dignity. Read More
Ella Wright Wright's mother, Ella Wright, uses fear and physical punishment to guide Wright's behavior when he is a young child. She later suffers a series of strokes that leave her paralyzed and unable to care for him. Read More
Mrs. Wilson Wright's grandmother, Mrs. Wilson, raises him in her home in Jackson, Mississippi, through much of his childhood. A strict religious fundamentalist, she is both physically and psychologically abusive. Read More
Aunt Addie Aunt Addie is Ella Wright's youngest sister. She teaches at a strict religious school Wright is forced to attend, and she abuses him because he does not share her beliefs.
Bess Bess, the teenage daughter of Wright's landlady in Memphis, Tennessee, wants to marry Wright although she barely knows him.
Bill Bill, a young black man who works with Wright as an orderly at a hospital in Chicago, is often drunk on the job.
Black waitress An unnamed black waitress becomes Wright's confidante when he discovers a white coworker spitting into the food at a café where they both work in Chicago.
Brand Brand is an elderly black coworker at a hospital where Wright works as an orderly in Chicago.
Mr. Burden Mr. Burden is the owner of the house in Greenwood, Mississippi, where Wright briefly lives with his Uncle Clark and Aunt Jody.
Carpenter When the teenage Wright gets tricked into selling newspapers that spread Ku Klux Klan propaganda, an unnamed carpenter points out his mistake and gently suggests Wright find another way to earn money.
Uncle Charles Uncle Charles is one of Ella Wright's brothers. He visits the family at the beginning of her illness.
Uncle Clark Uncle Clark, one of Ella Wright's brothers, briefly provides a safe home for Wright during Wright's chaotic childhood.
Classmate When Wright is in sixth grade, an unnamed classmate convinces him to sell newspapers.
Aunt Cleo Aunt Cleo, one of Ella Wright's sisters, visits briefly during Ella Wright's illness.
Cooke Cooke, an elderly black coworker at the hospital where Wright works in Chicago, hates Brand, another coworker at the same hospital.
Cora Cora, a white waitress at a café where Wright works in Chicago, touches him casually on the job; this innocent touch highlights a major difference between Northern and Southern culture.
Mr. Crane Mr. Crane is Wright's white boss at an optical company in Jackson.
Dave Dave is a black night janitor in the building where Wright works in Memphis, Tennessee.
Edison Edison is a black worker in the building where Wright works in Memphis.
Editor An unnamed newspaper editor in Jackson buys Wright's first short story, "The Voodoo of Hell's Half-Acre."
Uncle Edward Uncle Edward is one of Ella Wright's brothers. He visits the family to provide support at the beginning of her illness.
Ella the schoolteacher A schoolteacher named Ella rents a room in his grandmother's house when Wright is very young.
Mr. Falk Mr. Falk, a white coworker of Wright's in Memphis, allows Wright to use his library card to borrow books from a library that serves whites only.
Grandpa Wright's grandfather, a former slave and Civil War veteran, is bitter toward whites because he never received his war pension.
Ed Green Ed Green is a militant black Communist who finds Wright suspicious because of his writing and reading habits.
Bob Greenley Bob Greenley is a black boy who is killed by whites who suspect he slept with a white prostitute.
Ned Greenley Ned Greenley is a classmate of Wright's whose brother is murdered by whites because of a rumor.
Griggs Griggs, a junior high classmate of Wright's, tries to convince Wright to read a fake valedictory speech at graduation. Griggs later tries to teach Wright to be subservient to white people.
Grimm Grimm, a white man, welcomes Wright to his first meeting of the John Reed Club in Chicago.
Harrison Harrison is a young black man who works for an optical company in Memphis.
Mr. Hoffman Mr. Hoffman is the Jewish owner of the shop where Wright works when he first arrives in Chicago.
Mrs. Hoffman Mrs. Hoffman is a Jewish woman for whom Wright works when he first arrives in Chicago.
Uncle Hoskins Wright's Uncle Hoskins briefly provides a safe home for Wright and his family in West Helena, Arkansas, when Wright is a young child.
Aunt Jody Aunt Jody is Uncle Clark's wife, with whom Wright briefly lives in Greenwood, Mississippi. Wright finds her distant and threatening.
John John is a black worker in the building where Wright works in Memphis.
Maggie Maggie is Wright's cousin and Uncle Tom's daughter. After Wright rebels against her father, she is forbidden to associate with Wright—even though they live in the same house.
Aunt Maggie Aunt Maggie, one of Ella Wright's sisters, takes Wright and his family into her home for a couple of years.
Professor Matthews Professor Matthews becomes Aunt Maggie's lover after Maggie's husband is killed.
Mrs. Moss Mrs. Moss, the owner of a house where Wright rents a room in Memphis, treats Wright kindly but also pressures him into marrying her daughter.
Buddy Nealson Buddy Nealson is a black Communist leader who is charged with eliminating black Trotskyites—people seen as disloyal—among Chicago Communists.
Mr. Olin Mr. Olin is a white foreman at an optical company where Wright works in Memphis.
Pease Pease, a white coworker of Wright's at an optical company in Jackson, threatens Wright and pushes him out of a job.
Cy Perry Cy Perry, a white Communist, leads a physical assault against Wright at a May Day march.
Principal The principal of Wright's junior high names Wright valedictorian but does not trust him to read a valedictory speech that whites in the audience will find unacceptable.
Quiet black Communist The quiet black Communist warns that intellectuals like Wright do not do well in the party. The unnamed man explains party members must prove their loyalty through violent conflicts with police.
Reynolds Reynolds, a white coworker of Wright's at an optical company in Jackson, threatens Wright and pushes him out of his job.
Ross Ross is a black Communist whose biography Wright wants to write. Ross later comes under the suspicion of the party and faces a public trial Wright finds offensive.
Shorty Shorty, a black elevator operator in Memphis, is well-read and intelligent but highly subservient to whites in a way Wright finds offensive.
Miss Simon Miss Simon runs the orphan home where Wright and his brother briefly live after his father leaves the family. She takes "a fancy" to Wright, but he fears her.
Sol Sol is a Jewish man in Chicago who introduces Wright to the John Reed Club.
Strange woman A "strange woman"—Wright's father's mistress—is present at a meeting in which a confused young Wright is supposed to beg his now-absent father for money and support.
Swann Swann is a loyal member of the John Reed Club and the Chicago Communist Party, but his credentials are questioned by a strange interloper named Young.
Tel Tel, a girl who works with Wright at a movie theater in Jackson, cooperates with him to steal some of the theater's profits.
Tillie Tillie, a cook at a café where Wright works in Chicago, regularly spits into the food. Wright is afraid of alerting his boss because he is black and Tillie is white, but he eventually convinces a black waitress to speak up and get Tillie fired.
Uncle Tom Uncle Tom is Ella Wright's oldest brother. During Wright's teenage years Tom moves in with the family and threatens to whip Wright, who rebels.
Alan Wright Wright's brother, Alan Wright, spends much of their childhood living with their Aunt Maggie. Wright and Alan have a distant relationship.
Nathan Wright Nathan Wright is Wright's father; he runs away and leaves his family destitute when Wright is a small child.
Comrade Young Comrade Young joins the John Reed Club in Chicago when Wright is president of the group. Young suggests another group member, Swann, is a traitor. Young causes chaos for months before it is revealed he is a psychiatric patient.
Alma Zetkin Alma Zetkin is a secretary of the Communist Party in Chicago.
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