Richard Nathaniel Wright (September 4, 1908 – November 28, 1960) was an American author of sometimes controversial novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerns racial themes, especially those involving the plight of African Americans during the late 19th to mid-20th centuries. Literary critics believe his work helped change race relations in the United States in the mid-20th century.

Wright moved to Chicago in 1927. After securing employment as a postal clerk, he read other writers and studied their styles during his time off. When his job at the post office was eliminated, he was forced to go on relief in 1931. In 1932, he began attending meetings of the John Reed Club. As the club was dominated by the Communist Party, Wright established a relationship with a number of party members. Especially interested in the literary contacts made at the meetings, Wright formally joined the Communist Party in late 1933 and as a revolutionary poet who wrote numerous proletarian poems “We of the Red Leaves of Red Books”, for example), for The New Masses and other left-wing periodicals. A power struggle within the Chicago chapter of the John Reed Club led to the dissolution of the club’s leadership; Wright was told he had the support of the club’s party members if he was willing to join the party.

By 1935, Wright had completed his first novel, Cesspool, published as Lawd Today (1963), and in January 1936 his story “Big Boy Leaves Home” was accepted for publication in New Caravan. In February, he began working with the National Negro Congress, and in April he chaired the South Side Writers Group, whose membership included Arna Bontemps and Margaret Walker. Wright submitted some of his critical essays and poetry to the group for criticism and read aloud some of his short stories. Through the club, he edited Left Front, a magazine that the Communist Party shut down in 1937, despite Wright’s repeated protests. Throughout this period, Wright also contributed to The New Masses magazine.

While he was at first pleased by positive relations with white Communists in Chicago, he was later humiliated in New York City by some who rescinded an offer to find housing for Wright because of his race. Some black Communists denounced Wright as a bourgeois intellectual. However, he was largely autodidactic, having been forced to end his public education after the completion of grammar school.

Wright’s insistence that young communist writers be given space to cultivate their talents and his working relationship with a black nationalist communist led to a public falling out with the party and leading members. Wright described this episode with his fictional character of African-American communist Buddy Nealson. Wright was threatened at knifepoint by fellow-traveler co workers, denounced as a Trotskyite in the street by strikers and physically assaulted by former comrades when he tried to join them during the 1936 May Day march.

Content: Wikipedia