Monthly Wright talks turn into ‘book club’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 9, 2007

NATCHEZ — For Darrell White with the Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture, it is no small thing that there is a monthly discussion of Richard Wright’s literary works at the George Armstrong Library.

White was one of several participants at the September meeting of what has been dubbed around town as the “Richard Wright book club,” a monthly celebration of what would have been Wright’s centennial year.

“Today we are meeting in a library, a place Wright tried to enter many times and was denied,” White said. “When there is worldwide recognition of Wright’s work, there will be a footnote that says it started here.”

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The group met Saturday to discuss Wright’s work “The Color Curtain,” a book some of the participants had a hard time finding because it is reportedly out of print, and one participant said he paid more than $60 for his copy.

Dr. Jerry Ward, a professor at Dillard University, facilitated the gathering’s discussion.

“The Color Curtain” was written to address the geopolitical situation in Asia during the 1950s, when countries were deciding whether or not to align with the West or with communism, Ward said.

“When I read it, I hear a kind of Old Testament prophetic voice,” Ward said. “What I mean is, by hook or by crook, Wright got a lot right and a lot wrong.”

The modern reader reads the book in a completely different light than when it originally received, Ward said.

“We have half a century of context,” he said. “We have Vietnam and other conflicts through which we would read it.”

Wright was affiliated with several Communist organizations in the 1930s and 40s, but later broke ties with communism as an organized ideology.

Wright was a poet, novelist and essayist who was born on a plantation in Roxie, and is best known for his novel “Native Son.”