Black Boy Essay

Black people were segregated from white people by law and custom. Black schools, drinking fountains, restaurants, hotels, buses and restrooms were for “colored” people only. Black people had to get off the sidewalk when a white person wanted to walk on it. Black people could not try on clothes in stores; they had to buy them without trying them on. Black people could not vote in some states until 1962.

Black children were taught that white people were better than Black people. Black adults knew it was true; they experienced the daily humiliation of segregation every day, all their lives. Black boys believed if they waited long enough, they might get to be Black men. Black girls knew better: Black women got the same abuse as Black men, and much more of it.

Richard Wright felt he had no choice but to leave the Jim Crow South. He went to Chicago to work in a factory and attend high school at night. It was much different than living with his grandmother in Mississippi; Black boys were not lynched in Illinois. For a while, Wright thought racism might not exist in Chicago because he could go places without being harassed by white people.

Racism followed Richard Wright from the Jim Crow South to the North; even though Black boys got whippings in the North, Black boys did not get lynched between Waukegan and Gary. Black men were free to vote in Illinois; Black women were not.

Richard Wright was a young Black boy in the North when he realized racism was a national problem, not a regional one. He wanted to see what life was like outside of Black towns and white suburbs. Wright found that among Black people who had different accents and traditional values from his own, they still thought Black people should stick together. In fact there were more Black businesses in Chicago than anywhere else.

In another town where the Black population was smaller and there weren’t Black businesses, Black people were more likely to come together on Sunday night at the Baptist church than on weekdays. Black boys in the South had not been sent away to school; Black girls had.

Black children of both sexes did less well in school than white children did. Black teachers lived in Black towns and Black boys like Richard Wright could talk to them about their lives without fear of reprisals. Life was more difficult for Black women; they had more work to do outside the house and inside it.

Racism is apparent throughout Richard Wright’s autobiography Black Boy . He grew up in Jim Crow segregated Mississippi during the first half of the twentieth century. Black people tried to survive by sticking together, but Black boys despaired of ever getting to be Black men. Black girls knew they would not escape being Black women.

Black Boy is a memoir of Wright’s experience as a black man and the racism that he faced. Black Boy discusses how even though Richard was Black, he was treated differently than other Black people he saw because he could read and write. When Richard first got to go to school after his many years of being uneducated, there were no signs pointing out the colored children.

Racism thrived in this area but it never struck him until later on. Black people were not allowed to sit where they wanted so when the white kids went away for vacation, Richard sat at their table by default. It didn’t occur to him to ask why he couldn’t sit where he pleased and then soon realized that there were limits to his freedom. Black people were not allowed to walk on the sidewalk, they had to walk in the mud that was a road.

Black people were not allowed to sit down at a counter and eat unless it wasn’t busy, which Richard did once and was thrown out for doing so. Black people were expected to have jobs that required little or no education but Richard didn’t abide by this because he wanted an education. Black boys were supposed “to be seen and not heard” yet Richard followed around one of the white boys so he could get answers from him when he didn’t understand what was being taught in school.

Black kids weren’t able to play with white children until Richard got older and started high school and Black kids were not allowed to go places where white people went. Most Black children weren’t able to read because they only got maybe an hour of schooling a day, less than what was required of white kids. White teachers wouldn’t give black students time to catch up with the rest of the class so they would be forced to go into lower grades just because they had gotten left behind during summer or Christmas break.

Black boys couldn’t work at the post office, but Richard had gotten a job there after his dream of being a writer didn’t pan out so he was lucky enough that it didn’t matter that he was Black. Black boys weren’t expected to have high paying jobs because Black people were supposed to be laborers. Black children didn’t get any attention from Black adults so Black boys had no one to look up to, yet Richard did have a Black teacher who was encouraging and supportive of his writing.

He was expected to act like Black people, Black people were expected to act like animals. They were thought of as dirty, smelly and ignorant (Nelson). When Wright walked into a white neighborhood, they got frightened by him; his blackness terrified them (Wright 36-7).

The first encounter that Wright had with racism was when he went downtown with the intention of buying shoes. Black Boy is an autobiography written by Richard Wright which focuses on his childhood in the South. White shop owners denied service to Black men who tried to sit at their lunch counters. The reason for this was clear: “the white man wanted us niggers to know our place”(35).

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