Understanding Richard Wright's Black Boy: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents
From Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. Du Bois on the one hand, to Black Codes, Jim Crow laws, and white supremacist pronouncements on the other, Felgar creates a dialogue between the voices of oppressed blacks, including Richard Wright, and those of oppressing whites over the issue of race and racism. Students will be able to analyze a variety of perspectives on this issue from the earliest days of the American republic to the present day. Felgar also includes primary documents on the American dream of success, which has remained elusive for so many blacks. A chapter on the American autobiographical tradition uses excerpts from Ben Franklin's autobiography, as well as from those by Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. Du Bois, to place Wright squarely in the tradition of this genre and show that Wright was more a believer in the myth of perpetual upward mobility than he realized. In a chapter called The Dream Deferred, documents show how freed blacks were just as enslaved by new and restrictive laws after the Civil War as they had been under slavery. Each chapter concludes with study questions, ideas for written and oral examination, and suggested readings to aid students in examining the issues raised by Wright's autobiography.
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From some things that I have said one may get the idea that some of the slaves did not want freedom . This is not true . I have never seen one who did not want to be free , or one who would return to slavery .
The author is criticizing an idea that may have a stronger grip on him than he realizes . ... A cornerstone to this popular complex of ideas is the Declaration of Independence , which its author , Thomas Jefferson , himself a slaveowner ...
... has kept them in idleness ; the idea of possessing lands is all that satisfies them — though surrounded with fertility , they have mouldered away their time in inactivity , misinformed husbandry , and ineffectual endeavours .
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The Autobiographical Tradition
The American Dream of Success
The Dream Deferred
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