(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Writing Black Boy and American Hunger provided Wright not only with a forum to denounce the racial atrocities he had witnessed but also with an opportunity to purge what he considered the cultural and psychological pretenses that alienated him during his childhood and most of his young adult life. In Black Boy, Wright recalls how he used tomull over the strange absence of real kindness in Negroes, how unstable was our tenderness, how lacking in genuine passion we were, how void of great hope, how timid our joy, how bare our traditions, how hollow our memories, how lacking we were in those intangible sentiments that bind man to man, and how shallow was even our despair.

Wright uses both autobiographies to elaborate on these unflattering remarks, to probe his inner thoughts in relation to what he loosely viewed as the collective African American psyche. In Black Boy, he concentrates mainly on his immediate family to show how only after he took a violent stand against their conventional ways did he gain his independence and win respect. He targets African American Communists in American Hunger, arguing that they lacked the strength to develop their own political platform and that they remained blind and uninformed because party leaders had convinced them that the most pressing social and political problems had been solved. As Michel Fabre, one of Wright’s biographers, points out, both autobiographies function therapeutically, as...

(The entire section is 607 words.)