Thursday, March 23, 2006

American Hunger Pt. 2


"Our too-young and too-new America, lusty because it is lonely, aggressive because it is afraid, insists upon seeing the world in terms of good and bad, the holy and the evil, the high and the low, the white and the black: or America is frightened of fact, of history, of processes, of necessity. It hugs the easy way of damning those whom it cannot understand, of excluding those who look different, and it salves its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness. Am I damning my native land? No; for I, too, share these faults of character! And I really do not think that America, adolescent and cocksure, a stranger to suffering and travail, an enemy of passion and sacrifice, is ready to probe into it's most fundamental beliefs."  ~ Richard Wright, Black Boy -1945

I love this picture of Mr. Wright -- he looks very cool. By the way, the above quote really expresses how I feel. Richard Wright is one of my favorite writers of all time. His often polemic style of writing both dazzled and frightened his American audience in the 1940's and 1950's. I've read most of his writing, and he never failed to address the issues that affected the black community, and ultimately, American society as a whole. Unfortunately, most blacks at that time didn't know Richard Wright. Richard who? (They still say that) They were too busy living the lives that he was writing about. Most blacks didn't know why Big Boy left home in Uncle Tom's Children (1938) or why Cross Damon was on the run in The Outsider (1953). They never got to know Bigger or Fishbelly, but each and every black person in America filled the pages of Richard Wright's novels, and he represented them with all the beauty and ugliness of who they were. They would have been proud if they knew. They would've been as proud as I was when I first opened the pages of The Long Dream (1958). I even made up a cast for a tv movie that would star Samuel Jackson. They would've been sad and maybe cried as I did when Bigger Thomas had to atone for his sins in Native Son (1940).  Yes, he eventually left America, and still often toiled with the American press before his death. I can't help but wonder what he would've written about the civil rights movement? Richard Wright was a great American writer.  He died in Paris, France in 1960 at the age of 52.

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