Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth

by Richard Wright

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In Black Boy, did Richard quit selling newspapers because he couldn't make enough money?

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Richard quit selling the newspapers when he became aware that the particular paper he was selling was preaching Ku Klux Klan doctrines.

Richard had no idea what was in the papers he was selling.  He had gotten the job through a friend, another black youth like himself.  Both boys enjoyed reading the magazine supplement included with the paper, but never bothered to read the paper itself.

Richard sold his papers in "the Negro area, slowly building up a string of customers who bought the papers more because they knew (him) than from any desire to read".  One day, "a friend of the family...a tall, quiet, sober, soft-spoken black man, a carpenter by trade", took Richard aside when he called at his home with the paper.  He made Richard sit down and look at the previous week's issue, and as he expected, Richard was shocked at the virulent racism and violence against Negroes which it espoused.  The friend told Richard, "if you sell (this paper), you're just helping white people to kill you", and gently advised him to "find something else to sell".

Richard went home wondering how he could have made such a grave mistake.  He "tossed the (remaining) papers into a ditch", aghast that he had "unwittingly" been duped into being "an agent for pro-Ku Klux Klan literature.  As it turned out, the father of the boy who had originally encouraged Richard to sell the newspapers had also discovered "their propagandistic nature", and had forbidden his son to continue to sell them as well.  The two boys, ashamed, never really discussed the matter again (Chapter 5).

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