One of the really rich autobiographies available to us is the one by Richard Wright, Black Boy (American Hunger) A Record of Childhood and Youth, originally published in 1945 by Harper and Row. The copy I have, reissued in 1989, starts this way:
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.Who wouldn't want to read about a black boy who was standing in the warmth out of the cold wind. The hands again, a symbol of the way we touch other people and things. Warming his hands against the cold wind.
Yet the winds of change were blowing even in 1945. Truman had recently, or would soon, send segregation in the armed forces. Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, dealt a blow to the "separate but equal" rationale. The Montgomery Bus Boycott would come soon as would the voting rights act and other national legislation.
It's hard to look back at that world through the lens of the Obama victory. But we lived in a time then when a president could never be elected if he was black. I kid growing up in this world will never know that one. Wright's autobiography is one that should be read by anyone who cares about America.
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