Black Boy is Richard Wright's autobiography. Richard Wright was born on a Mississippi plantation in 1908. He writes about his struggles for equality during the "Jim Crow" era. The United States Constitution states, "All men are created equal." During the Jim Crow era blacks were constantly being harassed because of the color of their skin. Wright's autobiography demonstrates a realistic picture of challenges faced by black males in the South. In the early 20th century, the South, especially, was a place where blacks were looked upon with racial prejudice, discrimination, and hatred by most whites. Unjust arrests, beatings and hangings were commonplace for blacks during this era.
After losing one of his jobs Richard writes:
"I knew what was wrong with me, but I could not correct it. The words and actions of white people were baffling signs to me. I was living in a culture and not a civilization and I could learn how that culture worked only by living with it. Misreading the reactions of whites around me made me say and do the wrong things. In my dealings with whites I was conscious only of what was happening at a given moment. I had to keep remembering what others took for granted; I had to think out what others felt." Wright goes on to say, "I had been coping with the white world too late. I could not make subservience an automatic part of my behavior. I had to feel and think out each tiny item of racial experience in the light of the whole race problem, and to each problem I brought the whole of my life. While standing before a white man I had to figure out how to perform each act and how to say each word. I could not help it. I could not grin. In the past I had always said too much, now I found that it was difficult to say anything at all. I could not react as the world in which I lived expected me to; that world was too baffling, too uncertain."
This is how life was for Richard Wright in the South. Yet, despite the odds, he was able to survive and achieve success. It was his perseverance, rebelliousness and intelligence that delivered his success. Though he received fame as a writer, he never really found his rightful place in society.
After writing Black Boy in 1940 Richard Wright became somewhat of a spokesman for black people. His work is still valuable in confronting racial issues today.