Richard Wright was born on September 4, 1908 on a plantation in Roxie, Mississippi. He died in Paris, France on November 28, 1960 from amoebic dysentery. He was an avid supporter of Communism, as evidenced in his writings and by his close relations to many members of the party, but later left them due to disagreements over their reliance of blacks for support. Wright faced racism in his life, especially as a child living in the Jim Crow South.
His grandparents were slaves and was also vulnerable to more racism living in Mississippi and later Tennessee, both typically racist southern states. He was the class valedictorian at his middle school and was supposed to give a speech, but the principal began threatening him to not release a speech that would offend the white school officials. He had Wright’s uncle come in and try to edit the speech, but Wright refused to be an “Uncle Tom” and proceeded to read his speech as planned.
Although Wright was an avid reader, blacks were not allowed to get books from the library and he had to use a coworkers card and forge notes that enabled him to check out books. He always felt oppressed in life for his race, stating that “the color of a Negro’s skin makes him easily recognizable, makes him suspect, converts him into a defenseless target”.
Wright conveyed his experiences of racism into his eventually renowned writings. In the early stages of life, Wright faced the poverty of the lowest class, and rarely wore expensive clothes, however in his later years after his writings became bestsellers he was able to dress lavishly. Although he had meager wealth, he said that “whenever my environment had failed to support or nourish me, I had clutched at books…”, and would read them enthusiastically, eventually at age 16 writing a short story called “The Voodoo of Hell’s Half-acre”, which was published in a local black newspaper.