Richard Wright tellsabout how racial discrimination, unequal rights, conflict, and the GreatMigration during the Great Depression, had a great impact in his life in his autobiography,Black Boy. Richard, just like any other African American boy growing up in thedeep south of the 1910’s to the 1920’s, had a rough childhood. Throughout thisbook, he explains his thoughts and how he feels about being a “black boy.” Richard was born in 1908 near Natchez, Mississippi.
Hismother was a school teacher and his father was a black sharecropper (+).Sharecropping is a type of farming where in this case African Americans willrent or loan small spots of land from the landowner in return for a share oftheir crops produced on their portion. Richard’s father was on to travel Northto work for the industrial centers but only got to Memphis, where he worked ina drugstore and left the family on their own. Before he left they had a couple incidents,one containing a house fire.
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Richard was only a couple years old when he got curiouswhat his white curtains looked like on fire (>. pg. 10). As he set the houseon fire with a broom by accident, he knew his mom would beat and whip him andran underneath the burning house (>. pg. 11).
After Richard was found, hispredictions were right. His mother stripped the leaves from a tree limb toprepare it for his back. He was hit so hard and long that he lost consciousnesswhich made him so sick that he was ordered to keep abed (>.
pg. 13). In thistime period Blacks were not treated the same as whites. White people hatedblack people just because they were a different skin color.
This is calledracial discrimination. Since the African Americans were not liked by any onethey did not have nearly the same privileges as whites. Also if they didsomething whit people didn’t like, no matter if it was bad or not, people wouldrandomly hit and beat them. All they wanted was to be like everyone else, butthat was too much to ask for.
In the book, no person got killed, but Richard and hislittle brother came across a stray cat that would not stop meowing, which madetheir father angry. It got on his nerves so bad that he told Richard to killit. Richard wanted to please his father although he knew it was wrong to kill apoor kitten. After he killed the kitten brutally, he got in to a lot of troublewith his parents. When he said what his father told him to do, his fatherdenied it and changed his words around to make it sound like it was all Richards’idea (>.
pg. 17-19). It was wrong that he killed the kitten, but it is alsowrong how his father played him like that. After the kitten incident his fatherdisappeared and when Richard and became a where and friends with the feeling ofconstant hunger. He had to live on a cup of tea and little pieces of breadevery now and then for a long time (>. pg.21). Richard at a very young age was pressured to somewhattake over his father’s responsibilities.
One major responsibilities were to getfood for everyone to eat. His mom gave him some money and sent him off to goshopping. On his way a gang of boys would grab him and knock him to the groundand take his money. This happened twice till the third time when his mothergave him a long heavy stick and said, “Go to the store and buy those groceries.If those boys bother you, then fight.” As he wonders back to the store oncemore with the stick in his hand, the gang of boys start to approach him andwanted to fight. Richards response was, “I’ll kill you!”, and started to swingthe stick against the other boy’s skulls which drew them away(>. pg.
23-25). He hadnow finally learned how to defend for himself. AlthoughAfrican Americans got their right to be citizens, their recognition of theirrights stayed a long way off (&). They were not paid enough to hardly makea living let alone moving to the north or buying enough food to feed themselvesand their families. Therefor, 90% of blacks still lived in the south in the1900’s. Most of their houses, if they had one, which only one fifth of blacksowned their own household, were located in rural places. Most men and somewomen worked as some type of farmer or laborer. The rest did more unskilledlabor and service jobs such as working at a restaurant or a store (&).
Richard’s mother went to work as a cook when his father left to get some moneyto feed them (>. pg. 22).
Thisis the time period when everything was segregated. Segregation is theseparation of the blacks and the whites. This included areas such asinstitutions, restaurants, schools, restrooms, churches, parks, and playgrounds(<). Basically, everything was segregated because of the fourteenthamendment. The fourteenth Amendment addresses the aspects of citizenship andthe rights of citizens.
It stated that everyone had equal protection of thelaws which summarized section one saying, “All persons born or naturalized inthe United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of theUnited States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make orenforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens ofthe United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, orproperty, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within itsjurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Whit people did not like theidea of black people having the same rights as they did, therefor they triedtheir best to sabotage it. In the book Richard’s mom was a cook but it was in awhite restaurant. “I always loved to stand in the white folks’ kitchen when mymom cooked,” (<. Pg.26).
Richard also specifically stated how there wereonly white people eating and how he hardly got enough to eat, “Toward theevening my mother would take the hot dishes into the dining room where thewhite people were seated, and I would stand as near the dining room door aspossible to get a quick glimpse of the white faces gathered around the loadedtable, eating, laughing, talking.” He also said, “If the white people leftanything, my brother and I would eat well; but if they did not, we would haveout usual bread and tea” (>. Pg. 26).
Since they were low on money, all theyreally ate was tea and bred, so after everyone is done eating, whatever thepeople don’t eat either gets thrown away, but most likely Richard and hisbrother gets it to feed them. When one doesn’t eat a lot, then gets scraps ofsomething else to put in their stomach then that is considered, “eating well.” Tosum everything up Richard says, “Why could I not eat when I was hungry? Why didI always have to wait until others were through? I could not understand why onepeople had enough food and others did not.
” He had to push aside his hungerbecause he had the disadvantage of being black during this time. Richardand his family were so poor that he had to go out and beg for money. He gotinto watching the drunk people at a bar. Eventually, he turned six years oldand was a drunkard. The people at the bar forced him to drink which made himdrunk for a punishment for lurking around the doors. Later, he got bribed tostay longer because a person asked if he were to keep drinking they would givehim a nickel. He accepted the offer because he needed the money, so every timehe drank, someone would give him a penny or a nickel (>.
Pg. 27-29). There are a lot of segregated placesin this book, for example, Richard began school at Howard Institute, which is anall-black school. Black schools did not have buses, so he had to walk to and backevery day (>. Pg. 30-32).
He also attended an all-black Sunday school where hebe the tall, black preacher. His mother invited him over for soup and chicken. Richardgot jealous that he was able to eat chicken, and Richard went how many days withhardly anything to eat and he wasn’t aloud to eat the chicken till all his soupwas gone, which made him angry (>.
Pg. 33-34). Jim Crow law, in U.
S. history, any of the laws that enforced racial segregation in the South between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and the beginning of the civil rights movement in the 1950s. Jim Crow was the name of a minstrel routine (actually Jump Jim Crow) performed beginning in 1828 by its author, Thomas Dartmouth (“Daddy”) Rice, and by many imitators, including actor Joseph Jefferson.
The term came to be a derogatory epithet for African Americans and a designation for their segregated life.