At Richards’ grandmother’s house. He sets some curtains on fire, which leads to the house catching on fire. The family moves to Memphis. Richard hangs a cat after his father tells him to (sarcastically) Richard’s mother punishes him. At six while hanging out at a saloon he becomes a drunkard. At this age there are no racial differences to him. Richard and his brother are taken to an orphanage to live. His father has left the family for another woman. His mother is ill and can’t work.
His mother takes Richard and his brother to live at their grandmother’s house. They move to Arkansas to live with Maggie and her husband b/c granny’s religious rules tie them down. Maggie and Richard’s mother are sisters. Maggie’s husband, a successful saloon owner, is killed. In fear for their lives they go back to granny’s house. They then move back to Memphis. Aunt Maggie left with a man who killed a white woman.
Richard’s mother had a stroke. Her left side was paralyzed. They went to live with Granny. Afterwards Richard’s brother goes to live with Aunt Maggie in the north. Richard goes to live with Uncle Clark. After finding that a boy died in his room he can’t sleep. He finally went home to Granny. His mother is living at Granny’s her health is improving.
Richard is twelve years old. The poetry of religious hymns inspires Richard to write his own poetry. Richard isn’t religious his granny tries to convert him. One day at church he tells his grandmother that if he ever saw an angel he would believe. His grandmother misunderstands him and thinks that he has seen an angel. His grandmother tells everyone that he has seen an angel. Afterwards Richard apologizes and promises to pray for salvation. When he prays he find nothing to say to God. This is when he writes his first story. Richard is given up by the family. He is an outsider.
Richard wants to earn some money to buy lunch. His granny won’t let him work on the weekends. So he threatens to leave. Granny gives in. He starts selling papers. He enjoys the supplementary section of the newspaper. It has stories in it. When Richard finds out that they are published by the Ku Klux Klan he stops selling them. In the summer he takes the job of an assistant to an illiterate insurance salesman. But his employer dies during the winter. Richards grandfather dies. Richard’s grandfather served in the Union Army. He spent the rest of his life expecting the government to give him his pension.
Richard gets a job working for a female white. She insults him by giving him moldy bread and old molasses. When she inquires what grade he is in school he tells her that he is in the 7th grade and that he wants to be a writer. The white woman tells him that he will never be a writer. He doesn’t return to the job the next day.
Richard is now in 8th grade. When he writes a story for a local black newspaper everyone is confused by it. This wasn’t expected of a Black Boy.
As Richard gets older he is isolated from his classmates and relatives. His brother, who comes to visit, also becomes critical of his ways. He also finds out that his Uncle Tom is telling his cousin Maggie to stay away from him. Richard wants to leave. Richard is valedictorian of his 9th grade class. The principal wants Richard to read a speech he has written. Richard has already prepared a speech. The principal threatens that Richard will not graduate if he doesn’t read his speech. Richard reads his own speech. He is isolated even more by his peers and relatives. In the year 1925 he goes out into the world at the age of 17.
As he works at different places the hatred of white people follow. He is beaten up by white boys. He is fired from one job for seeing the beating of a black woman. At an optical house his white co-workers mistreat him. His employer who is from the north understands Richard’s problem but the co-workers are out to get him. Richard wants to escape to the north.
Richard wants to leave the south. To go north he needs money. He gets the money through crime. His conscience is his punishment. When he obtains the money that he needs he stops stealing. He tells his mother that he will send for her. He leaves Jackson for Memphis.
Richard moves to Memphis. Mrs. Ross he is Richard’s landlady. When he arrives she greets him with warmth. She offers Richard her daughter, Bess. He refuses her. This will ruin his plans of going north.
Richard gets a job at an optical house. He watches in disgust as Shorty an elevator operator lets himself be kicked by a white man, just to get 25 cents. Richard meets a boy named Harrison who works at the optical house across the street. Their employers made them fear each other by telling them that the other was out to get them. The whites then coaxed them into fighting each other for 5 dollars each. They accept. Afterwards Richard is humiliated.
Richard borrows a library card from a Catholic co-worker, Mr. Falk. He obtains books to read. Through these books he learned that words could be used as weapons. He keeps the fact that he reads books a secret. Richard sends for his mother and his brother to live with him.
Aunt Maggie comes to live with them. Her man has left her. The family decides that Aunt Maggie and Richard should go to the north first then his mother and brother would follow.
The Horror and the Glory.
Aunt Maggie and Richard arrive in Chicago in 1927. They stayed with Aunt Cleo’s. After a while Richard’s mother and brother came to live with them. Then Richard moved into a two room apartment with Aunt Cleo. He read lots of books and practiced writing. He got a job as a dishwasher in the North Side Caf. Richard took a postal workers exam. He failed b/c he didn’t meet the weight requirement. He started to eat a lot of food.
In the spring he gained enough weight to meet the requirement. They moved to
A larger apartment with his increased pay. He was happy. He met an Irish chap who was as cynical as Richard was. He introduced Richard to Irish, Jewish, and Negro group of friends. He met a Negro literary group on Chicago’s South Side.
The Great Depression arrives. Jobs are scarce. Aunt Cleo, his mother and his brother become ill. He got a job from a distant cousin selling insurance policies. He became an insurance agent. Sometimes if the clients could not pay they would exchange sex for premiums. They were usually from young, black, illiterate girls. He also helped in swindling clients. Communism among blacks increase. Times get hard. He can’t sell insurance anymore.
Richard went to a relief station for help. When Christmas came he was called for a temporary job at a post office. When that job ended he was assigned by the relief station to a medical research institute. He helped take care of the laboratory animals.
Richard was invited to join the John Reed Club. To contribute writing. Richard wrote poems and they were published. After two months of belonging to the club he was appointed as executive secretary of the Left Front group.
Richard joined the Black communist party. He was surprised to find out that they were not very serious about their issues. Richard had decided to write biographical sketches on Ross, a black communist who was under an indictment for inciting a riot. Richard was warned that the communists did not like intellectuals. They discriminated against intellectuals. Ross was later charged on three violations of the communist party. Richard was ordered by the communist party to stay away from Ross. The clubs that he was writing for were dissolved by the communist party. He also heard that his ideas were corrupting the communist party. He was going to resign from the communist party. When he told his comrades about this they said that no one could resign from the communist party. That he would be publicly expelled.
From the Federal Experimental Theater he was transferred to the Federal Writers Project. There he was ostracized by the communists. On May Day there was a march when he tried to join in the march he was shoved out of the way. This made Richard feel even more alone. In the south he had been discriminated against because he was black. Here in the Black communist party he was discriminated for being an intellectual. He felt that the whites were just as miserable as their black victims were.