Breaking the Barriers of Ignorance (Black Boy)

Essay by EnergyCoffee March 2004

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Following a century of steam, the century of electricity begins. Ragtime jazz develops, Albert Einstein publishes his theory of relativity, women get the right to vote, Henry Ford releases his first car, and Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse first talks on screen in the film Steamboat Willie. Although the early 1900s is called the "age of wonderful nonsense," there is a darker side which few people want to remember. World War I, the sinking of the Titanic, the stock market crash, and the Great Depression were all events which helped shape the decade. Living through this mass hysteria of rises and downfalls is Richard Wright, a young boy who refuses to accept how white people treat black people in the Jim Crow South. Throughout his childhood he has endured negligence, abuse, and violence yet survives to become a dignified and respected writer in the north through his refusal to accept what white people expect him to be, his defiance of his own family's and community's expectations, and his willingness to do whatever it takes to survive the hunger and brutality of his youth.

One of the main reasons Richard survived the harsh South was because of his refusal to accept the common perception of black people for himself. He didn't want to be seen as a traditional "nigger," or a black slave. Richard was self-motivated and expressed much interest in reading and writing, and taught himself how to accomplish these tasks. "I want to read. I can't get books from the library, I wonder if you'd let me use your card?" (257) Being a black boy in the South, Richard lacked certain privileges that white people had, such as the ability to check out books from the library. If society isn't going to help Richard accomplish his goals, he's going...