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Native Son | Study Guide

Richard Wright

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Richard Wright | Biography


Richard Wright was born on September 4, 1908, in rural Mississippi. His father's absence and his mother's ill health meant Wright and his younger brother, Alan, spent most of their childhood moving around the Deep South to live with various relatives.

Wright was a good student in school, but as early as age 10 he began working a series of odd jobs to help support the family. He finished ninth grade in May 1925 at the top of his class, but he left school shortly after to find steady work. Despite his formal education being cut short, Wright was a voracious reader and continued to study on his own.

In 1927 Wright moved to the South Side of Chicago and worked briefly for the postal service. He became affiliated with the Communist Party in 1931, and between 1931 and 1937 he wrote and published poetry, stories, and essays in communist journals and mainstream publications. He published his first book, Uncle Tom's Children, in 1938, and submitted a first draft of Native Son to his editor.

Native Son was published in 1940 to both critical acclaim and controversy. It remains one of Wright's best-known works, although he continued to publish consistently through the late 1950s. Wright moved to Paris in the mid-1940s, at the time a hotbed of African American intellectualism with the establishment of the Présence Africaine journal and publishing house. He remained abroad for most of his remaining years. Wright had two daughters with his second wife, Ellen Poplar. He died in Paris on November 28, 1960, and was buried there.

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