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A Eudora Welty Timeline [imagemap with 10 links]

Voices of Mississippi

Is it something in the water? The air? The land? Many speculate about its origin, but few can pinpoint the cause of Mississippi's literary flowering. The Magnolia state boasts Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners by the bushel. From Faulkner to Ford, this diverse group of writers has helped define modern American literature. And though many have moved on to different states and nations, their Mississippi roots remain the underpinning of their perspective and style.

William Faulkner | Shelby Foote | Richard Ford | Ellen Gilchrist
Barry Hannah | Willie Morris | Walker Percy | Margaret Walker
Eudora Welty | Tennessee Williams | Richard Wright




William Faulkner
Oxford
1897-1962


William Cuthbert Faulkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi, the first of four sons and named after his great-grandfather, William Clark Faulkner, known as the "Old Colonel." A few days before Faulkner's fifth birthday, the family moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where he would live on and off for most of his life.

Beginning with his third novel, Sartoris (1929), Faulkner took Sherwood Anderson's advice to write about his native soil. Drawing upon regional geography and his own family history, he created the fictional Yoknapatawpha County. Through stream-of-consciousness narration, symbolism, and lush language, he explored post-Civil War life in the South, focusing on his characters' personal histories and on the moral loosening of Southern society as a whole. Of the 19 novels Faulkner published during his lifetime, all but five are set in Yoknapatawpha, including The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930), and Absalom, Absalom! (1936).

In addition to writing novels and countless short stories, Faulkner did several stints in Hollywood, penning screenplays for Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep and Jean Renoir's The Southerner, among others. He was awarded the Nobel Prize, the Howells Medal, the National Book Award, and two Pulitzer Prizes. Fellow Mississippian Eudora Welty presented him with the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Gold Medal for Fiction for his contributions to American literature. On July 6, 1962 -- the Old Colonel's birthday -- Faulkner died of a heart attack at the age of 64.


On being a Southern writer:
"I learned that to be a writer, one has first got to be what he is, what he was born; that to be an American and a writer one does not necessarily have to pay lip-service to any conventional America image such as his and Dreiser's own aching Indiana and Ohio or Iowa corn or Sandburg's stockyards or Mark Twain's frog. You had only to remember what you were. You have to have somewhere to start from: then you begin to learn ... You're a country boy; all you know is that little patch up there in Mississippi where you started from."

From "A Note on Sherwood Anderson," in Essays, Speeches and Public Letters by William Faulkner, ed. James B. Merriwether (New York: Random House, 1965).


An excerpt from Absalom, Absalom! (1936):
It would be three hours yet before he would learn why she had sent for him because this part of it, this first part of it, Quentin already knew. It was part of his twenty years' heritage of breathing the sane air and hearing his father talk about the man; a part of the town's -- Jefferson's eighty years' heritage of the same air which the man himself had breathed between this September afternoon in 1909 and that Saturday morning in June 1883 when he first rode into town out of no discernible past and acquired his land no one knew how and built his house, his mansion, apparently out of nothing and married Ellen Coldfield and begot his two children ... and so accomplished his allotted course to its violent ... end. Quentin had grown up with that; the mere names were interchangeable and almost myriad. His childhood was full of them; his very body was an empty hall echoing with sonorous defeated names; he was not a being, an entity, he was a commonwealth. He was a barracks filled with stubborn, back-looking ghosts ...

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Shelby Foote
Greenville
1916-


When asked in 1958 about "superior books [and] superior writing" among contemporary writers, William Faulkner cited Shelby Foote as a novelist "that shows promise." Shelby Dade Foote Jr. was born in Greenville, Mississippi, into a line of prestigious Delta families whose fortunes were on the wane. His first novel, Tournament (1949), was a thinly veiled account about the rise and fall of his grandfather. After his father's premature death in 1922, Foote came under the tutelage of the learned William Alexander Percy and befriended novelist Walker Percy. After less-than-glorious service in the Army and Marines during World War II, Foote returned to Greenville and mined Tournament for stories that were soon accepted by The Saturday Evening Post. Buoyed by this success, Foote pushed forward on a new novel, Shiloh (1952), seven monologues of Southern and Northern soldiers during the two-day April 1862 battle. On the strength of Shiloh, Random House asked Foote for a short Civil War history. Between 1954 and 1974, he would compose the three-volume, 1.2-million-word The Civil War: A Narrative, the work for which he is now best known, primarily thanks to his appearance in Ken Burns' documentary The Civil War.


On being a Southern writer:
"I'll tell you a very simple thing that I got out of writing about the [Civil] war that tremendous long time ... I acquired a knowledge of and a love for Southern geography. It's great when you learn about the rivers and the mountains and the way the South physically is. That's a thing that is important to us. People do draw from their physical backgrounds. Whether you live in the mountains or on the seacoast makes a big difference in what kind of person you are."

From Mississippi Writers Talking, by John Griffin Jones (Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1982).


An excerpt from Shiloh:
The sky had cleared, the clouds raveled to tatters, and at four o'clock the sun broke through, silver on the bright green of grass and leaves, and golden on the puddles in the road; all down the column men quickened the step, smiling in the sudden burst of gold and silver weather. They would point at the sky, the shining fields, and call to each other: the sun, the sun! Their uniforms, which had darkened in the rain, began to steam in the April heat, and where formerly they had slogged through the mud, keeping their eyes down on the boots or haversack of the man ahead, now they began to look around and even dance aside with little prancing steps to avoid the wet places.

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Richard Ford
Jackson
1944-


Although Richard Ford was born and raised in Mississippi, he doesn't consider himself a Southern writer. "Personally, I don't think there is such a thing as Southern writing or Southern literature or Southern ethos," Ford told Harper's magazine. The son of a traveling salesman for a starch company, he was born in Jackson in 1944, where he grew up across the street from a house where Eudora Welty had lived. His mother pointed her out to him: "I could tell from the tone of my mother's voice that being a writer was something estimable." He and Welty were close friends until her death in July 2001.

When his debut novel, A Piece of My Heart (1976), was nominated for the Ernest Hemingway Award for Best First Novel, he was widely hailed as a new Southern voice, indebted to William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor. But then he turned his focus to other locales, including Montana, Paris, and New Jersey. As a result, critics have trouble fixing Ford's place in the literary world. In 1987, Ford won a PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction for The Sportswriter (1986). Its sequel, Independence Day (1995), won both the PEN/Faulkner and the Pulitzer Prize, making him the first writer to win both awards for a single work.


On being a Southern writer:
"I'm a Southerner, God knows, but I always wanted my books to exist outside the limits of so-called Southern writing. A Piece of My Heart was set in Arkansas and Mississippi, and I, of course, thought that though the setting was Southern, the book somehow wasn't Southern. But then the people who wrote about it all said it was another Southern novel, and I just said, okay, that's it. No more Southern writing for me."

From "About Richard Ford: A Profile," by Don Lee, Ploughshares, 1996.


From A Piece of My Heart (1976):
The road widened and cleaved back along the inner coast of the levee, then bent north across another cotton lot that was tilled and dry and waiting for planting. It stuck into a grove of maples and sycamores behind which he could see the sheen of the lake and the first low buildings of the camp ... The lake was a dark silver-black ankle lying to the north and south, with the island five hundred yards away, a dense revetment of shumards and willows reaching as far as he could see in either direction. It looked to him like a reproach, and he felt that he ought to turn around and try to put the whole business behind him. "It isn't much," he said, looking at the lake.

"We ain't there yet," Robard said, letting the wheels straddle the remains of the dead dog.

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Ellen Gilchrist
Vicksburg
1935-


Known for her poetic style and realistic characterizations, Ellen Gilchrist tells unique, personal stories in a snapshot of time that, however short, retain a deep emotional resonance. She first showed literary promise at the age of 14 as author of the "Chit and Chat About This and That" column for the Franklin, Kentucky, newspaper near her home in Vicksburg, Mississippi, but her talent remained dormant until middle age, when she divorced her husband, Marshall Walker, and enrolled in Eudora Welty's writing course at Millsaps College in Jackson. "She taught us to write in our own voice," recalls Gilchrist. "When I first read her, my mouth was hanging open because she wrote the way I and people I knew talked. It was a revelation to me." In 1981, when Gilchrist was 46, the University of Arkansas Press published her first collection of short stories, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams; the book would later be reissued in hardcover and paperback by Little, Brown and Company. Her second collection of stories, Victory Over Japan (1983), received the National Book Award for Fiction in 1984. She now has more than 17 books in print. Although Gilchrist presently lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, she maintains a house in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.


On being a Southern writer:
"I read something by an eminent historian that most of the settlers of the South were from Scotland, Ireland and Wales, whereas most of the white settlers from Pennsylvania and the other Northern states were from England. The Celts went down to the South and the Celts have language skills! They have mouths full of language. I really think that's why Southern writing is different, Southern writing came from the Celts, and then of course the black people came down and turned the language into music."

From "An Interview with Ellen Gilchrist," by Judith Handschuh, The Book Reporter, 1998.


An excerpt from "Revenge" from In the Land Of Dreamy Dreams (1981):
Outside the summer sun beat down on the Delta, beating down a million volts a minute, feeding the soybeans and cotton and clover, sucking Steele's Bayou up into the clouds, beating down on the road and the store, on the pecans and elms and magnolias, on the men at work in the fields, on the athletes at work in the pasture.

Inside Baby Doll and I would be dancing, or Guy Lombardo would be playing 'Begin the Beguine' and I would be belting out lyrics.

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Barry Hannah
Clinton
1942-


The man Truman Capote called "the maddest writer in the U.S.A." was born and grew up in Clinton, Mississippi. After earning a degree from Mississippi College in 1964, he went on to receive an MFA from the University of Arkansas and began teaching creative writing at Clemson University in South Carolina. In 1972, Hannah published his first novel, Geronimo Rex, which won the William Faulkner Prize for writing and earned Hannah a nomination for the National Book Award. After a year teaching at Middlebury College in Vermont, Hannah decamped to the University of Alabama, where he wrote Airships (1978) -- what many consider to be one of the finest collections of contemporary short fiction from the South. Hollywood beckoned in 1980, but life on the West coast did not suit Hannah, so he returned to academia, finally settling at the University of Mississippi, where he has continued to publish fiction to rave reviews, including High Lonesome (1996), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction.


On being a Southern writer:
"I went through a really snotty period when I didn't really like to be known as a Mississippi writer. I still don't like to be known as specifically Southern because that will get you in all kinds of diseased categories, and people will ignore your book that shouldn't ... But I'm Southern and I'm proud of it. If you mean a heritage from Faulkner to Miss Welty to Tennessee Williams to Elvis Presley to B.B. King, then my God, yes, I am proud to share it. You better believe it."


From Mississippi Writers Talking, by John Griffin Jones (Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1982).

From "Testimony of Pilot" from Airships:
"When I was ten, eleven, and twelve, I did a good bit of my play in the backyard of a three-story wooden house my father had bought and rented out, his first venture into real estate. We lived right across the street from it, but over here was the place to do your real play. Here there was a harrowed but overgrown garden, a vine-swallowed fence at the back end, and beyond the fence a cornfield which belonged to someone else. This was not the country. This was the town, Clinton, Mississippi, between Jackson on the east and Vicksburg on the west. On this lot stood a few water oaks, a few plum bushes and much overgrowth of honeysuckle vine. At the very back end, at the fence, stood three strong nude chinaberry trees. ... In Mississippi, it is difficult to achieve a vista. But my friends and I had one here at the back corner of the garden."

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Willie Morris
Yazoo City
1934-1999


William Weaks Morris was born into a family of born storytellers who handed tales down from one generation to the next in the small town of Yazoo City, located "on the edge of the delta, straddling that memorable divide where the hills end and the flat land begins." In the 1960s, Morris became the youngest editor-in-chief of the nation's oldest magazine, Harper's, which quickly became the country's most influential periodical, attracting writers such as William Styron, Robert Penn Warren, and Arthur Miller. In 1971, embroiled in editorial disputes with the magazine's owner, Morris quit.

He became known for nonfiction works in which he compared his long and complex Southern heritage to America's own history. North Toward Home (1967) was praised by the London Sunday Times as "the finest evocation of an American boyhood since Mark Twain." In 1980 Morris returned to his native state as writer-in-residence at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, where he encouraged aspiring young authors, including novelists Donna Tart and John Grisham, and tended to the state's literary history, turning a 1989 National Geographic story on "Faulkner's Mississippi," into a book and contributing an introduction to Life on the Mississippi to The Oxford Mark Twain (1996). That same year he received the third annual Richard Wright Medal for Literary Excellence, joining the select company of the previous winners Eudora Welty and Margaret Walker. Morris died of a heart attack August 2, 1999, at age 64.


On being a Southern writer:
"If there is anything that makes Southerners distinctive from the main body of Americans, it is a certain burden of memory and a burden of history. ... I think sensitive Southerners have this in their bones, this profound awareness of the past."


An excerpt from North Toward Home (1967):
The town where I grew up sits there on the edge of the delta, straddling that memorable divide where the hills end and the flat land begins. ... It's name was Yazoo City ... "Yazoo," far from being the ludicrous name that other would take it, always meant for me something dark, a little blood-crazy and violent. It is, in fact, an old Indian name that means "death," or "waters of the dead"; the Indians who once inhabited the region as fighters and hunters had died by the scores of some horrible disease. Stephen Foster at first meant his song to be "Way Down Upon the Yazoo River," but it was rumored he found out about the meaning of the word, and felt he had been tricked. Hence the town was "death city" to its detractors, and to my contemporaries when I left the place later for college, I was called "Yazoo." Such was the spell the very name exerted on you long after you had left it.

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Walker Percy
Greenville
1916-1990


Walker Percy is renowned for fiction that couples a thoughtful intellectualism with an abiding morality. Percy was born in Birmingham, Alabama, but as a teenager, following his father's suicide and the death of his mother in an automobile accident two years later, he and his two brothers went to live with their cousin William Alexander Percy in Greenville, Mississippi. There Percy found intellectual stimulation in the company of his cousin and his scholarly guests. He also began a lifelong friendship with Shelby Foote, who would likewise turn to writing. In 1934 Percy enrolled in the University of North Carolina, studying chemistry, and entered medical school at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. In 1942, while working as a pathologist in New York, he contracted tuberculosis at the age of 26. Confined to a sanitarium for three years, Percy delved into literary and philosophical reading that he'd had no time for during his medical training. Taking a particular interest in existentialism, Percy made this period of intense, sustained reading the foundation for all his writings to follow. His most famous work was also his first, a novel, The Moviegoer (1961), which won the 1962 National Book Award. Percy lived much of the rest of his life in Louisiana, where he died of cancer on May 10, 1990.


On being a Southern writer:
"I think that for 100 years Southern literature, before and after the Civil War, as not particularly distinguished. It was ingrown; it was either romantic or it was defensive. It was trying to defend slavery as an institution and, later trying to defend segregation. Then along about 1920, I think the cultures began to merge and you had a kind of spark jumping so that you had people like Faulkner coming on who began to write about their region but in such universal terms, neither romantically nor defensively, that made itself understood to people from other parts of the country ... My novels attempt to be an exploration of what it is to be a man living in a particular time in a particular place. I am trying to explore what it is to be human ..."

From "The Southern Imagination: An Interview with Eudora Welty and Walker Percy," by William F. Buckley Jr., in Conversations with Eudora Welty (Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1984).


An excerpt from The Last Gentleman (1966):
Down flew the Trav-L-Aire into the setting sun, down and out of the last of the ancient and impoverished South of red hills and Cardui signs and God-is-Love crosses. Down through humpy sugarloaves and loess cliffs sliced through like poundcake. Dead trees shrouded in kudzu vines reared up like old women down and out at last and onto the vast prodigal plain of the Delta stretching away misty and fecund into the October haze. The land hummed and simmered in its own richness.

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Margaret Walker
Jackson
1915-1998


Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Margaret Walker read much poetry and philosophy as a young child and was writing daily by the time she reached adolescence. By the time she was 16, Walker was halfway through New Orleans College, where she met renowned poet Langston Hughes, who told her she should be educated in the North. Taking his advice, she went on to graduate from Northwestern University, and eventually earned both a master's and a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Iowa. For My People, winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 1942, was Walker's first published book and the work for which she is best known. Her acclaimed novel, Jubilee (1966), recounts the collected memories of her maternal great grandmother, daughter of a white master and a black slave, and offers an unprecedented perspective from the view of enslaved people. Many scholars view the novel as the first African American response to Gone With the Wind. A longtime professor at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, Walker founded the Institute for the Study of the History, Life and Culture of Black People, which was renamed in her honor after her death from cancer on November 30, 1998, at the age of 83.


On being a Southern writer:
"The Southern writer, like all American writers, but perhaps with more intensity, deals largely with race. He or she cannot escape the ever present factor of race and the problems of race as they have frown out o the Southern society and affected all of America ... The subject of race has become theme and conflict and character development in Southern literature."

From "A Brief Introduction to Southern Literature," in How I Wrote Jubilee and Other Essays on Life and Literature, by Margaret Walker (New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1990).


An excerpt from Jubilee (1966):
Grandpa Tom, the stable boy, and May Liza, Marster's upstairs house girl, were sitting on the steps of their cabins in the slave Quarters. It was not yet dusk-dark. An early twilight hung over the valley, and along the creek bank fog rose. The hot spring day was ending with the promise of a long and miserable night. A hushed quiet hung over the Quarters. There were no children playing ring games before the cabins. The hardened dirt-clay road, more like a narrow path before their doors, was full of people smoking corncob pipes and chewing tobacco in silence. Out on the horizon a full moon was rising. All eyes were on the cabin of Sis Hetta, where she lay on her death bed, sinking fast.

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Eudora Welty
Jackson
1909-2001


Eudora Alice Welty was the first daughter in a close-knit, family in Jackson, Mississippi. In 1927, Welty left home for schooling at the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University but returned in 1931 after her father's death. As her literary career took off, Welty would travel widely and hold various teaching posts, but she always returned to her parents' house in Jackson, where she lived until her death. In 1940 Welty signed on with literary agent Diarmud Russell, an association that would last throughout her career. Her first collection, A Curtain of Green, appeared the next year. While Welty wrote successful novels, including The Robber Bridegroom (1942), The Ponder Heart (1954), and the best-selling Losing Battles (1970), her forte would remain the short story. Her pitch-perfect dialogue and revelatory gaze distilled truth into the voices and lives of her characters. In 1983 Welty delivered the first annual Massey Lecture in the History of American Civilization at Harvard University, which became her best-selling memoir, One Writer's Beginnings. She won many honors over the course of her career, including Guggenheim fellowships, O. Henry Awards, the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for The Optimist's Daughter, and entry into France's Legion d'Honneur. She died on July 22, 2001, at the age of 92.


On being a Southern writer:
"When I speak of writing from where you have put down roots, it may be said that what I urge is 'regional' writing. 'Regional,' I think, is a careless term, as well as a condescending one, because what it does is fail to differentiate between the localized raw material of life and its outcome as art. 'Regional' is an outsider's term; it has no meaning for the insider who is doing the writing, because as far as he knows he is simply writing about life. Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Thomas Hardy, Cervantes, Turgenev, the authors of the books of the Old Testament, all confined themselves to regions, great or small -- but are they regional? Then who from the start of time has not been so?"

From Place in Fiction, by Eudora Welty, (New York: House of Books, 1957).


An excerpt from The Ponder Heart (1954):
Now the only bad thing about the Ponder place is where it is. Poor Grandpa had picked him a good high spot to build the house on where he could see all around him and if anybody was coming. And that turned out to be miles from anywhere. He filled the house with rooms, rooms, rooms, and the rooms with furniture, furniture, furniture, all before he let Grandma in it. And then of course she brought her own perfectly good rosewood in right on top of it. And he'd trimmed the house inside and outside, topside and bottom, with every trimming he could get his hands on or money could buy. And painted the whole thing bright as a railroad station. Anything to outdo the Beulah Hotel.

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Tennessee Williams
Columbus
1911-1983


Best known as a playwright, Tennessee Williams pitted the decadence and beauty of a fading Southern culture against the cynicism and brutality of the modern world. Born in Columbus, Mississippi, Thomas Lanier Williams had a genteel upbringing in Clarksdale before the family moved to St. Louis in 1918. He was raised almost entirely by his mother while his father traveled. Soon after graduating from the University of Iowa in 1938, Williams settled in New Orleans where he took the nickname "Tennessee," after his father's home state.

Just after the war in 1945, The Glass Menagerie, considered by many his finest play, opened on Broadway. The story of Tom, his disabled sister Laura, and their matchmaking mother Amanda, the play, like much of William's work, was based on his own family. Director Elia Kazan remarked: "Everything in his life is in his plays, and everything in his plays is in his life." The Glass Menagerie went on to win the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award.

Over the next 30 years, Williams saw many more of his plays produced on Broadway and made into films, including A Streetcar Named Desire, which won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize and catapulted Marlon Brando to stardom, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, for which he earned a second Pulitzer Prize in 1955. Williams died accidentally, after choking on a bottle cap, on February 24, 1983.


On being a Southern writer:
"Well, my roots are in the South, at least my creative roots are ... I think ... Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, and myself -- we're far from being the new wave, you know ... There was a sudden efflorescence of writing that began with Faulkner, don't you think? I think he began the Southern Gothic movement, as it's called, And Robert Penn Warren. I think a great many wonderful writers have come out of the South, say in the last 30 years."

From "Studs Terkel Talks with Tennessee Williams (1961)," in Conversations with Tennessee Williams, ed. Albert J. Devlin (Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1986).


An excerpt from Cat on A Hot Tin Roof:
Margaret: Y' know, I'm fond of Big Daddy, I am genuinely fond of that old man, I really am, you know.

Brick: [faintly, vaguely]: Yes, I know you are...

Margaret: I've always sort of admired him in spite of his coarseness, his four letter words and so forth. Because Big Daddy is what he is, and he makes no bones about it. He hasn't turned gentleman farmer, he's still a Mississippi red neck as much of a red neck as he must have been when he was just overseer here on the old Jack Straw and Peter Ochello place. But he got hold of it an' built it into th' biggest an' finest plantation in the Delta. I've always liked Big Daddy... Well, this is Big Daddy's last birthday. I'm sorry about it. But I'm facing the facts. It takes money to take care of a drinker and that's the office that I've been elected to lately.

Brick: You don't have to take care of me.

Margaret: Yes, I do. Two people in the same boat have got to take care of each other...

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Richard Wright
Natchez and Jackson
1908-1960


Though Richard Wright spent only his youth in Mississippi, it played a key role in his two most important works: the novel Native Son (1940), and his autobiography, Black Boy (1945) -- books that made Wright spokesperson for an entire generation of African Americans.

Born on a plantation not far from the affluent city of Natchez, Mississippi, Wright's early life as the son of an illiterate sharecropper and a school teacher was far from well-off. Poverty forced the family to Memphis, Tennessee, and his father's subsequent desertion brought them back to Jackson, Mississippi. As a young man, Wright worked as a post office clerk in Chicago, where he joined the Communist Party. In 1937, Wright moved to New York, where four of his stories were collected in Uncle Tom's Children and he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to complete Native Son.

In reaction to continued racism in America, Wright moved to Paris, where his friendships with Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus resulted in his existentialist novel The Outsiders (1953). After becoming a French citizen in 1947, Wright traveled widely and he began writing passionately about oppressed and exploited people everywhere. In his last years, Wright was plagued by ill health and financial hardship. He died on November 28, 1960, leaving a legacy of ideas and attitudes that changed America.


On being a Southern writer:
"I knew of no Negroes who read the books I liked and I wondered if any Negroes ever thought of them. I knew that there were Negro doctors, lawyers, newspapermen, but I never saw any of them. When I read a Negro newspaper I never caught the faintest echo of my preoccupation in its pages. I felt trapped and occasionally, for a few days, I would stop reading. But a vague hunger would come over me for books, books that opened up new avenues for feeling and seeing, and again I would forge another note to the white librarian. Again I would read and wonder as only the naïve and unlettered can read and wonder, feeling that I carried a secret, criminal burden about with me each day."

From Black Boy, by Richard Wright (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1944).


An excerpt from Black Boy (1944):
Granny's home in Jackson was an enchanting place to explore. It was a two-story frame structure of seven rooms. My brother and I used to play hide and seek in the long, narrow hallways, and on and under the stairs ... There were wide green fields in which my brother and I roamed and played and shouted. And there were the timid children of the neighbors, boys and girls to whom my brother and I felt superior in worldly knowledge. We took pride in telling them what it was like to ride on a train, what the yellow sleepy Mississippi River looked like, how it felt to sail on the Kate Adams, what Memphis looked like and how I had run off from the orphan home.


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