Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth Additional Summary

Richard Wright


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Richard Wright was a bored and frustrated young boy growing up in Natchez, Mississippi, in a household that he believed neither understood nor appreciated him. At the age of four, he demonstrated his boredom and frustration by setting his house on fire, thus incurring the wrath of his mother, Ella, who beat him into unconsciousness.

When the family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, Richard’s father deserted the family, leaving them in poverty. Richard’s mother was forced to put her two sons in an orphanage, where they remained for six weeks before being reunited with their mother. They then moved to Elaine, Arkansas, to live with Ella’s sister and her husband. En route to Arkansas, they stayed for a brief time in Jackson, Mississippi, with Ella’s parents, Margaret and Richard Wilson. Margaret (called Granny), the matriarchal head of the house, was a stern ruler, intolerant of the love of fiction demonstrated by a schoolteacher who boarded with her. The schoolteacher introduced fiction to Richard. From Granny’s intolerance, Richard learned lessons about familial rigidity and cruelty that he carried with him throughout his youth.

When they arrived in Elaine, Arkansas, to stay with Aunt Maggie and Uncle Hoskins, it appeared that the Wrights’ lives of constant mobility and poverty were over. They finally got the food they needed and the security they had lacked. This sustenance and stability were short-lived, however. Uncle Hoskins was murdered by whites who wanted his saloon, thus compelling the Wright family to leave. They fled to West Helena, a town near Elaine.

The mobility continued when Richard’s mother suffered...

(The entire section is 678 words.)

Chapters I-IV Summary

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Richard Wright's autobiographical account in Black Boy opens with his earliest memory, standing before a fireplace as a four-year-old...

(The entire section is 887 words.)

Chapters V-X Summary

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Richard's confrontations with his family over religion are reignited when his mother, recovered for a time, joins a Methodist church and...

(The entire section is 269 words.)

Chapters XI-XIV Summary

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Upon his arrival in Memphis, Richard quickly finds, to his surprise, a friendly family with whom he can lodge; but he is even more surprised...

(The entire section is 265 words.)

Chapters XV-XX Summary

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Originally deleted by Wright's publisher and finally restored in the Library of America's 1991 edition of Black Boy, this section...

(The entire section is 116 words.)