Richard Wright's childhood experiences propelled him to escape the South, question religion, and become a writer. As a child, Wright felt alienated from his family, and confused by the larger economic, racial, and social dynamics he observed. The limits thrust upon him as a young person eventually served as motivation for Wright to pursue his dreams of literary and intellectual achievement.
As a young boy, Wright would spend hours listening to his babysitter read him stories out of pulp fiction novels. Wright's grandmother forbade this practice on religious grounds, claiming such stories were sinful and wrong. However, Wright reveled in the imaginative worlds these stories presented, and the way that words could form pictures and ideas. This experience caused his initial interest in writing.
Wright observed the terrible realities of racial injustice early in life. His favorite uncle, a successful businessman and well-respected member of the community, was lynched. This exposure to the brutally violent nature of Southern racism ignited within Wright a strong desire to escape the South. As an adult, he moved to Chicago to free himself from the repressive Jim Crow culture of the South.
Wright's grandmother helped raise him. She was a devout and strict Christian. Wright observed that despite his granmother's piety, the family struggled with poverty and racial violence. It didn't seem that God answered his grandmother's prayers. Thus, Wright became deeply distrustful of religion; a trait he would carry into adulthood.