Richard Nathaniel Wright (September 4, 1908 – November 28, 1960) was an African-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. His work helped redefine discussions of race relations in the United States in the mid-20th century.
Richard Wright was born on September 4, 1908 at Plantation, Roxie, Mississippi. He lived with his maternal grandmother in Jackson, Mississippi, from early 1920 until late 1925. Here he felt stifled by his aunt and grandmother, who tried to force him to pray that he might find God. He later threatened to leave home because Grandmother Wilson refused to permit him to work on Saturdays, the Adventist Sabbath. Early strife with his aunt and grandmother left him with a permanent, uncompromising hostility toward religious solutions to everyday problems.
In 1923, Wright excelled in grade school and was made class valedictorian of Smith Robertson junior high school. Determined not to be called an Uncle Tom, he refused to deliver the principal's carefully prepared valedictory address that would not offend the white school officials and finally convinced the black administrators to let him add a compromised version of what he had written. In September that year, Wright registered for mathematics, English, and history courses at the new Lanier High School in Jackson, but had to stop attending classes after a few weeks of irregular attendance because he needed to earn money for family expenses.
His childhood in Memphis and Mississippi shaped his lasting impressions of American racism. At the age of 15 years, Wright penned his first story, "The Voodoo of Hell's Half-Acre". It was published in the Southern Register, a local black newspaper.