Uncle Tom's Children Background

Uncle Tom's Children Background

Uncle Tom’s Children is a novel written by Richard Wright that was first published in 1938 and republished in 1940. As the reader may recognize, Wright titled his book after Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was published in 1852. Wright was an African-American author who also wrote a few other books that addressed the lives of non-white people. At first, Uncle Tom’s Children only had four novellas, but when it was republished, he added a nonfiction introduction and a fictional story to the end to make six parts of the book, which are "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow," "Big Boy Leaves Home," "Down by the Riverside," "Long Black Song," "Fire and Cloud," and "Bright and Morning Star.”

The introductory essay “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow” is a nonfiction piece that describes Wright’s own experiences when he was growing up in his segregated and highly racist world in the South. Not only did racial issues arise during his adolescence, but they continued throughout his adulthood as well. As a child, he couldn’t play games with white children, much less a “war game” that his peers enjoyed playing. When he could start working, he experienced much friction between himself and his coworkers, who would physically abuse him for trying to learn things that would promote his position. In this essay as well as the five other fictional stories, Wright exposes the hypocrisy in social norms regarding black and white ethnic differences that are established to tear down the self worth of and impose the inequality against people of color.

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