The powerful legacy of passionate & honest words

by DRM

I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.

Imagine you’d been given a voice that you couldn’t control, that channeled a clear vision of the here and now, that struck one note again and again with confidence.

What would your life be like?

In Black Boy, Richard Wright wrote a book that told an intensely personal story that connected with a passionate moment of moral referendum for a culture. What does it mean to be a black boy? Not in the abstract, but in the real seething minute-by-minute experience.

When I read the book as a white boy, a teenager on the northeast coast, I was breathless. The intensity drew me, the alienation spoke to me, but even in my adolescent fog I was conscious enough to know that I had an escape, that I wasn’t captured by the color of my skin, that I could learn how to hide my otherness.

Wright never had that choice.

There’s a web site called Find-a-Grave where people leave memorial comments to the dead. Richard Wright, who died 50 years ago, has a couple of pages of heartfelt comments. That’s a powerful legacy.