Saturday, February 1, 2014

First Lines Second Thoughts — Black Boy



First Lines Second Thoughts is a look at the first lines of well known literary works.
On second thought, do these opening words stand alone as poetry? In recognition of Black History Month we visit Richard Wright's Black Boy. Published in 1945.

One winter morning
in the long-ago, four-year-old days of my life
I found myself standing before a fireplace,
warming my hands over a mound of glowing coals,
listening to the wind whistle past the house outside.


Richard Wright


The original manuscript for Richard Wright's Black Boy was as a memoir divided in two parts. The first 14 chapters recount the author's southern childhood. The second part is set in Chicago detailing the author's accounts and struggles as a young man.

When Black Boy was published in 1945, the Chicago section was omitted owing to concerns at the time of the depiction of the author's sympathies and later disillusionment of his communist activities.

These omitted six chapters were published posthumously in 1977 under the title American Hunger. It would be another 14 years before all 20 chapters were published as conceived by Richard Wright as a whole under one cover.