DVD and DVD + 3-Year Site/Local Streaming
86 minutes, 1994, Producer/Writer/Director: Madison D. Lacy, Executive Producers: Guy Land and Jef Judin An online FACILITATOR GUIDE is available for this title.
ABOUT THE FILM
Emmy Award Winner! Richard Wright - Black Boy is the first documentary film on the life, work and legacy of Richard Wright. Born outside Natchez, Mississippi in 1908, Wright overcame a childhood of poverty and oppression to become one of America's most influential writers. His first major works, Native Son and Black Boy, were runaway best sellers which are still mainstays of high school and college literature and composition classes. According to critic Irving Howe, "The day Native Son appeared American culture was changed forever."
Three years in the making, underwritten by the National Endowment for the Humanities and produced by Eyes on the Prize veteran Madison D. Lacy, Richard Wright - Black Boy is destined to become a definitive literary biography. It skillfully intercuts dramatic excerpts from Wright's own work with historical footage and the recollections of friends, associates and scholars such as Ralph Ellison, Margaret Walker, and Wright's daughter, Julia. They trace Wright's later development as a writer back to the brutality and racism of his Southern childhood - his father deserted the family, his uncle was lynched and he often went hungry. Wright's indelible portrayal of Bigger Thomas in Native Son and his own autobiography Black Boy lay bare the tragic connection between racism and powerlessness, despair, and self-destructive violence in many black males.
Wright played an important role in many of the important social movements of his time. The film follows his journey through the Chicago black cultural Renaissance of the '30s, the Communist Party during the Depression, the witch-hunts of the McCarthy era and the American expatriate community in Paris in the '50s. This biography urges us to take a fresh look at the often-neglected work of Wright's exile years including The Long Dream and his championing of Pan Africanism and the newly emerging nations of Africa and Asia.
By the time of his mysterious death in 1960 at age 52, Wright had left an indelible mark on African American letters, indeed, on the American imagination. This film biography demonstrates Wright's life-long belief that "words can be weapons against injustice." It will encourage students of American Literature, Black Studies and 20th Century American History to revisit Wright's work with fresh enthusiasm and deepened understanding.
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"Revealing and moving...expands our understanding of a genuine literary genius. Enthusiastically recommended to teachers and students, and to writers--veterans and apprentices both."
"Powerfully presents an unforgettable record of the life, times, achievements, and influences of one of the key figures of 20th century literature. Scholarly and creative, it is an ideal introduction."
Keneth Kinnamon, University of Arkansas
"A fine teaching tool...The impressive commentators give an admirable sense of the intellectual/discursive legacy of Richard Wright."
Houston A. Baker, Jr., Duke University
"Valuable as a film, it is priceless as a teaching tool with its vivid scenes and highlighted commentary...A soaring testimony to the man and his work."
John A. Williams
"A thoughtful, artistic film.Required viewing, whether Richard Wright is an old friend or this is your introduction to one of America's greatest novelists."