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Black Boy

Key insights from Richard Wright's

Black Boy

Key insights from Richard Wright's

Black Boy

6 minutes

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A timeless narrative of growing up black in the American South during the early 20th century.

Richard Wright was born in 1908 and spent his early years in rural Mississippi. Growing up black in the South, he faced challenges that continue to resonate with those who hear his story today. More than a look at his own life, “Black Boy” is a mirror held up to our own.

Read this Snapshot if you:

  • Want a firsthand account of the American South as it was a century ago
  • Are curious about how racism has changed — and hasn’t changed — in the last 100 years
  • Want to know why black lives matter at the personal level
What is a Snapshot?Learn More

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Many of Richard Wright’s formative memories are traumatic ones. Among his earliest took place in the winter of 1912, in the living room by the fireplace with his younger brother. Bored and with nothing else to do, he started tossing items into the fireplace to watch them burn. Once that lost its appeal, he pulled out a few straws from a broom, lit their ends, and touched them to the curtains. The resulting fire destroyed the house and nearly killed everyone inside. Upon discovering what he’d done, his mother Ella whipped his back with a tree branch until he lost...

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