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Black Boy

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  39,428 Ratings  ·  1,439 Reviews
Black Boy is a classic of American autobiography, a subtly crafted narrative of Richard Wright's journey from innocence to experience in the Jim Crow South. An enduring story of one young man's coming of age during a particular time and place, Black Boy remains a seminal text in our history about what it means to be a man, black, and Southern in America.
Paperback, The Restored Text Established by The Library of America, 419 pages
Published September 1998 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1945)
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100 Pages A Day This book is insane. I read it in two days. I mean I could not put it down except so I can eat dinner, shower, and sleep.

Community Reviews

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Aug 09, 2011 ·Karen· rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa
Professor Amy Hungerford points out in her Open Yale lectures:
that there is a certain amount of well-founded doubt as to the absolute accuracy of this work as an autobiography. Wright, however, does not claim this as his life, but rather as a Record of Youth and Childhood, the tale of a Black Boy growing up in the Southern States between the two World Wars. Thus a generic life. There can be no doubt whatsoever about its emotional authenticity. I read this
Feb 28, 2008 Kristen rated it really liked it
I felt something shift in me as a reader as I neared the end of Wright’s autobiography. Where he began relating his experiences of, and delineating his theoretical disagreements with, the Communist party in Chicago, my experience of reading became less interactive, less organic, and to some degree, less interesting. I think I stopped making personal connections to the material. I was no longer reading to discover what feelings, ideas, or insights his story would incite in me. Instead, I began en ...more
Emily Loeb
Jan 27, 2008 Emily Loeb rated it really liked it
Black Boy is the book that made me fall in love with reading. I was in Italy with my family on spring break and I was required to read Black Boy for my english class. This book pulled me in. I remember walking around Italy with my nose in the book, barely looking up. I made my step-dad stop in a bookstore so I could buy more books by Richard Wright. I read Native Son next. As Black Boy is Wright's autobiography, I was enthralled with Richard Wright's life and how he was able to escape the hardsh ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
I hesitated between 3 and 4 stars for Black Boy. I felt that it was similar in structure to Invisible Man by Ellison but the writing, in my opinion was inferior. Like Ellison, the novel starts with Wright's childhood in the South - deserted by his father and always hungry (the original title was American Hunger - he teaches himself to read (a dangerous occupation for a black person in the South of the 20s and discovers and suffers from poverty and racism. However, the narrative was quite ploddin ...more
Sep 20, 2016 Adina rated it it was amazing
Gems sometimes come from unexpected places such as Richard Wright’s autobiography/novel Black Boy.

I decided to read this because I discovered a free literature course named The American Novel since 1945 from Open Yale and it was the first title discussed. If interested in the course check this link:

I have to admit that I did not know much about the author (he seems to be famous in the US) and I was not so keen about reading this book even after watching the
Mar 01, 2009 brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i’m in the minority (minority. heh heh.) in finding this book superior to ellison’s invisible man. it might not be as daring, might lack the touch of modernist irony, but sometimes ya gotta shove all that aside and recognize a great book for just being a great book. something ellison’s book just ain't.

Did I seriously just start this book two days ago? I lost track of time while I was reading this. I just sort of fell into it, only coming up for air for pesky things like work. And peeing.

I'm ashamed to say I haven't read anything by Richard Wright prior to this. I've been sitting on a few of his books, not really sure what I was waiting for. I decided to start with this one as it's a memoir and I figured a good a place as any to get a feel for an author. Now I'm glad I did so; I learned quite
Nov 07, 2015 Alex rated it it was amazing
Here's Richard Wright going door to door in the 1920s Jim Crow South trying to sell his dog for a dollar because he's starving. A white lady offers him 97 cents and, feeling some distant surge of fury inside, he turns her down, goes home with his dog and his hunger. A few days later (view spoiler) and this book is a bummer. This is not quite 100 years ago, this hellish world he's trying to claw out of. The degradation required of black peopl ...more
Dec 19, 2007 Kris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
During some sort of standardized test in high school one of our reading comprehension sections included a section of this book. It was the section where young Richard Wright (living in Alabama?) wanted to read libraby books, but couldn't check books out of the library because he was black. Wright went to the one person in the office where he worked as a janitor who might be sympathetic--because the man was Catholic and also suffered from slights from the other white Southerners. Wright had to as ...more
Maureen Brunner
Every so often I will personally discover a story (not just "know" about it), written before my time, that opens up a world of enlightenment and gives answers to questions I didn't realize I had. Black Boy, the autobiographical memoir of author Richard Wright, is one of those novels. Originally, Black Boy was published as two separate novels (Black Boy and American Hunger). The first dealing with his childhood through late adolescents in the south. The second begins with Wright realizing his dre ...more
Edward Lorn
Feb 22, 2017 Edward Lorn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yale
3.5 stars

“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; our 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”
― Richard Wright,
Linda Nordgren
Jun 01, 2017 Linda Nordgren rated it it was amazing
Kunde jag ge den mer än en femma skulle jag. THIS BOOK. Fy tusan så bra. Perfektion.
Aug 22, 2016 Edward rated it really liked it
As I learned from the excellent free Yale lecture series entitled The American Novel Since 1945 with Amy Hungerford (available on YouTube), Black Boy is in fact part autobiography and part work of fiction. Wright admits that at least several of the events described in the book did not actually happen to him. Instead the work is intended mix his own life with a portrayal of the general experience of a black boy growing up in the American South in the early twentieth century.

And what a time it wa
Black Boy is a deeply horrifying and intelligent memoir from Richard Wright, a Mississippi black boy who became so much more than black boys were supposed to become. His earliest memories on a Southern plantation and the tough streets of Memphis become fantastic stories that he, unfortunately, had to live.

Richard is different, who knows why, but he’s different. All the black families living on his street are hungry, but Richard wonders why he’s hungry. Why can’t his mother, a cook at a restaura
Lisa (Likenbooks)
Feb 03, 2016 Lisa (Likenbooks) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So much to be said about this book that I couldn't possibly give a good review and include everything.

Many times I was left speechless and at times laughed at the innocence of a child who knew no better and was forced to grow up too fast and learn things on his own. Wright was definitely a character and he shares his experience about his family, the many times he had to move and the number of schools he attended because of these moves. He shares his ordeal with hunger, a father who abandons them
Apr 18, 2017 Guillermo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book, and thought it was nearly perfect up until the last part when he started flirting with the Communist party in Chicago. I just felt there was a jarring disconnect, because he was being so heartfelt and honest about his personal experiences with discrimination and coming of age in a divided America, that the Communist part while fascinating, just felt like it belonged in a different book.

On Communism:
"I knew, as I watched, that I was looking at the future of mankind, that this w
Nov 13, 2008 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Richard Wright grew up in the woods of Mississippi amid poverty, hunger, fear, and hatred. He lied, stole, and raged at those around him; at six he was a "drunkard," hanging about in taverns. Surly, brutal, cold, suspicious, and self-pitying, he was surrounded on one side by whites who were either indifferent to him, pitying, or cruel, and on the other by blacks who resented anyone trying to rise above the common lot.

Black Boy is Richard Wright's powerful account of his journey from innocence t
Oct 04, 2007 Carol rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: urban-romance
This books is well written but a classic autobiography of a black boy's journey during the Jim Crow South. I loved this book because it was easy to read, it takes you back in time, intense, and based on literary history. This book is a must have as a collection on a bookshelf.
Christopher Trader
Feb 03, 2014 Christopher Trader rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
I must admit, right from the start, that this will be a very poor review. It will be a poor review because such a work of wonder and artistry could never be properly praised with mere words alone. I fear I lack the talent to even come near doing justice to the education this book has given me. To the depth of philosophy and emotion drawn forth by Wright's writing.

I want to start by sharing why I chose to read this work. Many years ago I purchased a copy of Wright's work, Native Son. I don't rem
Jan 20, 2016 Ari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
IQ "My comrades had known me, my family, my friends; they, God knows, had known my aching poverty. But they had never been able to conquer their fear of the individual way in which I acted and lived, an individuality which life had seared into my life and bones" 363

Part of what makes this book so riveting is Richard's individualistic nature. It truly seem to arise out of nowhere, no one in his family nurtured that instinct in him and yet he rises above his circumstances to be extremely curious w
Mar 21, 2012 Doug rated it it was amazing
How. How is this book possible. How can I find my white 90s childhood in Maryland reflected so clearly in recollections of a black, indigent childhood in Jim Crow Mississipi. And yet how can I still see Wright's bloody picture painted so clearly, of the gulf across race and time and geography that he, along with thousands of others, had to travel in order to achieve what little self-actualization America would allow them.

How can Wright be so lightning-fisted in his portraits of the abuse of blac
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When my teacher started going over the themes that were going to be in this book, I wasn't sure I was going to like it. The first chapter, however, was a great hook and I couldn't stop reading it. Richard Wright had such a hard life yet he somehow survived it all and stayed true to himself. While reading it, I was upset and yet full admiration. This book caused me to question and think about life and the issues that seem to always recur. I remember thinking that he just couldn't get a break
Samantha Lazar
This book is an autobiography about Richard Wright's life. He grew up in the Jim Crow South in terrible living conditions. He was separated from his mother many times because she could not afford to provide for Richard and his brother, he was physically beaten, and verbally abused because of his race. Some parts of the book move rather slow, but for the most part, I really enjoyed reading it. It is so sad to see how people were treated because of their skin color. Ignorant people need to learn c ...more
Read for English 11

Jesus Christ, my head hurts. This thing was an absolute chore to get through. never again. never again.

Richard's family was seriously dysfunctional, especially his grandmother and aunt. They were abusive and so terrible to Richard and I absolutely hated them.

So while I felt extremely sorry for Richard, I in no way found him likable. he came across to me as condescending and he seemed to look down on the people around him, especially other black people.

I could not stand his s
Oct 25, 2012 Longfellow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I chose to read Black Boy specifically as a follow up to Gone With the Wind. In GWtW, I noticed in spots the narrator revealed a certain attitude, a perspective toward blacks that, while (I assumed) honest and sincere, struck me as prejudiced, even perhaps contemptuous at times.

Within this perspective was an assumption that the narrator—3rd person limited—knew what blacks, including freed slaves, thought and felt. To be fair, this perspective also included a sincere (but conditional) love and l
Jun 03, 2017 Lisa rated it it was amazing
In his semi-autobiographical novel, Richard Wright brilliantly describes the life of a "black boy" growing up in the racist and hostile south of the early 1900s. Moving north to Chicago, he gravitates to the Communist Party, whose race-blind approach gives him hope - but then becomes entangled in a different kind of repression.

The novel isn't just about cruelty and struggle and hunger; the pages are filled with the wonder and beauty Wright finds in reading, imagination and writing. He ends the
Breezy read with brutal content, Black Boy chronicles what life was like for blacks in the Deep South of the 1920's. Wright's is a straightforward style, pulling no punches, quite modern in its tone and style mixing frank narrative and dialogue. The product of a broken home, the striving Wright had constant trouble with his religious family. He resisted assimilation into the church and experienced his share of violence.

As he grows and looks for work, the reader is witness to case after case of S
Jerri Brissette
Sep 03, 2009 Jerri Brissette rated it really liked it
By the second page of this book, I had formed a distaste for this little boy. I don't care what the age of the child, the frightful action of this one seemed as if it could only result from stupidity, not innocense. Shortly thereafter, his callus harming of an innocent kitten furthered my dislike. However, as a great many children do, he matured not so badly after all. I must respect Richard Wright for the honesty with which he tells his story, not leaving out those early, disturbing actions whi ...more
Spider the Doof Warrior
May 30, 2009 Spider the Doof Warrior rated it it was amazing
Richard Wright wrote in a poetic style about his miserable childhood complete with starvation, racism, bitter religion and people hitting him over stupid things like saying things they didn't like. He doesn't fit into the world he lives in. He questions it and makes those around him angry as a result. It's a fascinating book about race relationships that shows how much things have changed since the times Wright grew up in.

This was a very upsetting and painful book. It is a raw examination of racism, suffering, and cruelty. It was gorgeously written and insightful, however, all the aspects of PART I that made the book so incredible were almost entirely gone from PART II which unfortunately dampened my enjoyment of this book substantially.
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Good or Bad Memoir 1 6 Jan 04, 2016 03:01AM  
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Richard Nathaniel Wright was an African-American author of powerful, sometimes controversial novels, short stories and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerned racial themes. His work helped redefine discussions of race relations in America in the mid-20th century.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
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“Whenever my environment had failed to support or nourish me, I had clutched at books...” 2275 likes
“I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of the hunger for life that gnaws in us all.” 1153 likes
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