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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

13. Southern Renaissance

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Activities: Author Activities

Richard Wright - Selected Archive Items

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[4013] Carl Van Vechten, Portrait of Richard Wright (1939),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-42502 DLC].
Richard Wright's works, including Native Son, dealt with racism and the experiences of African Americans. Journalist Van Vechten used his photographs to promote black artists and writers. Van Vechten is also known for his controversial novel, Nigger Heaven (1926), about Harlem.

[4803] Arthur Rothstein, Family of Negro Sharecropper, Little Rock, Arkansas (1937),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USF33-006019-M4].
Photograph of African American share-cropper holding child. Sharecropping was a common occupation in the South, but often paid very little, despite the tedious and arduous nature of the work. Novelist Richard Wright was born into a Mississippi sharecropping family. His father deserted the family when Wright was five. Wright's novel Black Boy discusses life for southern blacks during this era.

[5085] Esther Bubley, A Rest Stop for Greyhound Bus Passengers on the Way from Louisville, Kentucky, to Nashville, Tennessee, with Separate Accommodations for Colored Passengers (1943),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-62919].
The overwhelming destructiveness of segregation has been well documented in the literary realm, particularly in Richard Wright's Native Son, a work which inspired James Baldwin, who focused on the interrelated nature of race and sexuality, and Ralph Ellison, whose Invisible Man portrayed the physiological terrorism of racial discrimination upon a black man's life.

[5460] Courier Lithograph Company, Uncle Tom's Cabin--On the Levee (1899),
courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Theatrical Poster Collection.
Poster for a theater production shows happy slaves dancing. Post-Civil War "Uncle Tom Shows" were often performed by whites in blackface. By presenting blacks as subservient, without physical, intellectual, moral, or sexual power, such shows gave the term "Uncle Tom" its current derogatory meaning.

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