Black Boy

The Quest for Knowledge in Wright's Black Boy

In his autobiographical account, Black Boy, Richard Wright instills in the reader the hunger that he felt for knowledge, as this drive had been suppressed by his environment. Wright's quest for knowledge and literacy parallels that of W. E. B. DuBois, a contemporary who had many of the same goals for all African-Americans that Wright had. Whereas DuBois wrote his essays in a persuasive plea to the American people, Wright's novel simply relays the trials and tribulations of a black man who fought against the system of prejudice from whites, as well as the conflicts that he has with members of his own race as a result of their inability to rise above these prejudices.

Philosopher René Descartes said, "I think, therefore, I am," and this sentiment is shown throughout the book by the young Wright. He sees that since colonial times, blacks were treated as nothing, only property that could be bought and sold for the benefit of the white men who had owned them; therefore, the black population, especially in the deep South, believed that they, though freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, were still bound by shackles of slavery. As a result of their disenfranchisement, many blacks developed a negative self-image, in...

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