Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Richard Wright as an Escape Artist
At the end of Southern section of Black Boy Wright explains that "This was the culture from which I sprang. This was the terror from which I fled." Toward the end f the Chicago section, Wright details his break with the Communist Party, and what's not in the book is that in 1947, a couple years after the publication of his autobiography, he decided to leave the United States for France.
I encountered Wright's Native Son my senior year of high school in Tennessee, and I read his autobiography the after my first year at Tougaloo College in Mississippi while I was in summer school in France. What really stood out to me at that time was that Wright had gotten out. He had been a black boy from the South, in some really tough conditions, and he had gotten out and away.
I didn't have the language back then, but clearly, looking back, I was marveling at Wright's abilities as an escape artist. He somehow managed to free himself from those typical locks and straitjackets that restrain Southern black boys.
A Notebook on Escape Artists