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Black Boy

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  47,941 ratings  ·  1,938 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. ...more
Paperback, The Restored Text Established by The Library of America, 419 pages
Published September 1998 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published February 1945)
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Sonja Thomas I love this book. I'm reading again for the second time because the first time I really didn't soak in the literal content. I read this book in the ea…moreI love this book. I'm reading again for the second time because the first time I really didn't soak in the literal content. I read this book in the early 2000's and times have changed drastically and I'm a bit older so I'm reading from a different level and it makes you think. (less)
Helene29 The boy's name is Richard Wright, it is an autobiography…moreThe boy's name is Richard Wright, it is an autobiography(less)

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Average rating 4.07  · 
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Sep 20, 2016 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
Hunger. Humiliation. Hate. Hurt.

How to describe the life of a poor, uneducated boy in the Jim Crow South between the world wars? Possibly, he would have led a less vulnerable life, had he been able to tune out his intelligence and his sensitivity. Possibly, he would have fared better if he hadn't been born to see human beings beyond the colour of their skin and their power to hurt. But he was born free, and therefore a target.

A target in his own family, where he was punished for his lack of sub
Aug 09, 2011 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 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 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
Mar 01, 2009 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.

I would give a million stars to this book if I could!!!
Richard Wright lived from 1908 to 1960, the book is an autobiography taking place from around 1912 to 1928. The book mainly focuses on Wrights childhood such as the abuse he suffered under his father, his mothers illness, having to move house constantly, the ever present threat of starvation and living as a young black boy in the South after the civil war.

As the story progresses, Richard is mistreated terribly by almost everyone around hi
Nov 07, 2015 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
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
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, memoir
The first part of this book, Southern Night, is absolutely incredible: I was riveted by Wright's profoundly emotional and psychological self-portrait of growing up in the segregated South, made real in visceral, searing prose. At one point, Wright borrows a white co-worker's library card and is thereby able to borrow a book by H. L. Mencken, of which he writes:

"Yes, this man was fighting, fighting with words. He was using words as a weapon, using them as one would use a club. Could words be wea
Dec 19, 2007 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
Vince Will Iam
Utterly exceptional in every way. An amazing depiction of human intolerance and Southern brutality. It makes you eager to read other books by Wright. He was such a great writing talent!
TODAY I finished re-reading "BLACK BOY." I first read it when I was in high school many, many years ago. At the time I read it, the book left a big impression on me. Yet, as time went on, I gave Richard Wright's autobiography little more than a second thought. So, when one of the Goodreads clubs to which I belonged chose "BLACK BOY" as the Book of the Month, I was eager to see what I might find or discover from re-reading it. From the moment I plunged into the first paragraph, I felt like I was ...more
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
Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very few novels, let alone memoirs have been able to capture my fancy for 400 pages or so- and Black Boy is one of them. I was exposed to it while taking Yale Eng291 course Online and immediately felt attracted to the beautiful imageries it portrayed. Running away from the South's deep rooted racism that still survives in some mitigated state- Wright contends -

'But the color of a Negro's skin makes him easily recognizable, makes him suspect, converts him into a defenseless target.'

The alternate
Edward Lorn
Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
Aug 22, 2016 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
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was so vast and widely important and touched on so much. I have never felt so personally connected to a book. Maybe when I’ll grow up I’ll make this into a mini series. That’s my dream.

11/20/20: I'm not as enamored of this as I was in high school. I don't know if I'm reading more closely or if my thoughts have just changed, but I noticed a lot of snide comments toward Black people in general. I was sort of shocked at the page where he called black people "lacking in culture" and "tenderness
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"It was inconceivable to me that one should surrender to what seemed wrong, and most of the people I had met seemed wrong. Ought one to surrender to authority even if one believed that that authority was wrong? If the answer was yes, then I knew that I would always be wrong, because I could never do it. Then how could one live in a world in which one's mind and perceptions meant nothing and authority and tradition meant everything? There were no answers." (165)
I first read Native Son in high sch
What can I say? Black Boy is arguably one of the best (underrated) autobiographies / memoirs ever written.

As an author, political and social commentator and all round citizen of the world, what is there not to love about the great Richard Wright?

I enjoyed this book on both a personal and political level that I'm not sure it's possible for me to break down how I feel about it into this little box, let alone critique it (although I would have loved it to have encompassed Wright's reflections on h
Apr 18, 2017 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
Christopher Trader
Feb 03, 2014 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
Whenever my environment had failed to support or nourish me, I had clutched at books; consequently, my belief in books had risen more out of a sense of desperation than from any abiding conviction of their absolute value.
If you've found your way to this corner of the Internet, the above quote should look strangely familiar. It's the most popular quote accredited to Richard Wright, and considering the context (as if that were not mandated for every critical engagement), this tells us a great
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Native Son was assigned in one of my university courses, and I remember it was an electrifying experience for me. I remember doing coursework at a local Starbucks and feeling like I could not put down the book. Of course, we never discussed it fully during our course and I ended up buying Black Boy and Uncle Tom's Children. Recently, I had to organize my book collection at my family home and came across the Harper Perennial Centennial edition of Black Boy.

I read it these past two weeks and the s
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
Lisa (LiteraryLatinax)
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
Nov 13, 2008 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
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
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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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