First-ever Richard Wright tour to ramble through area Feb. 23

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Natchez — For Charles Wright, 61, of Natchez, the first-ever “Richard Wright Ramble,” a guided tour, is a natural progression of things.

“I am deeply interested in family history,” Wright said. “And I am particularly proud of my cousin, the author, Richard Wright, who was born near Natchez in 1908.”

Charles Wright’s tour is a highlight of the 19th annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, Feb. 20-24, which is entitled “Richard Wright, the South, and the World: A Centennial Celebration.”

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More than two years in the making, the ramble is a culmination of Charles Wright’s research into family genealogy and oral histories. The tour will visit sites in Natchez and Adams County associated with the author, his family and his works. The tour begins at 1 p.m. with a free, two-part introduction at the Natchez Convention Center, when Mark LaFrancis of Copiah-Lincoln Community College premieres a documentary film, “Richard Wright: A Force for Right,” and Charles Wright presents remarks about the tour.

At about 1:45 p.m., those with tickets will board motor coaches for a tour that goes first to Forks of the Road, an area near the divergence of Liberty Road and St. Catherine Street. In the mid-1800s, a portion of Forks of the Road contained the second- largest slave market in the South.

“Forks of the Road shows up a lot in my family history,” Wright said. “My great-grandfather, Nathaniel Wright, was a slave on Rucker Plantation, near Cranfield. In 1863, he ran away and joined the U.S. Army at Forks of the Road.”

After the Civil War, Wright returned to Rucker Plantation, married and raised seven children, including Richard Wright’s father, Nathan Wright, and Charles Wright’s grandfather, Uriah “Rias” Wright.

Following the stop at Forks of the Road, the tour will go to Washington to the intersection of U.S. Highway 84 and 61, for a special ceremony during which a highway marker, “The Richard Wright Memorial Highway,” will be unveiled.

Following the ceremony, the tour will continue to the older U.S. 84, the Old Meadville Road, passing an original tenant house, “similar to what my relatives once lived in,” Wright said.

The tour will return to U.S. 84 and cross to Hobo Fork Road, passing Robinson Cemetery, where Wright family members are buried. These include Nathaniel Wright and his sons, Nathan Wright (Richard Wright’s father), Uriah “Rias” Wright (Charles Wright’s grandfather), George Wright and Solomon Wright. Louis Wright, a first cousin and playmate of Richard Wright, is also buried there, Charles Wright said.

Next, the tour will pass Robinson Chapel Baptist Church, where Richard Wright was once interviewed on film, and then will pass Tate Magnolia Baptist Church, where Richard Wright’s mother, Ellen Wright, taught school.

At the next stop, Historic Jefferson College at Washington, a new exhibit will be on view and refreshments served. “Richard Wright’s Mississippi: Natchez and Jackson, 1900-1960” is a collection of historic photographs taken during Richard Wright’s lifetime. The images were selected by Jim Barnett, Director of Historic Properties, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and longtime co-chairman of the NLCC.

Back in Natchez, the tour will go by the Ace Theater on St. Catherine Street, where Richard Wright’s first movie, “Native Son,” was shown in the early 1950s. Richard Wright starred in the film, Charles Wright recalled. “When I went to see the film, I was very young. I stood up in the theater and said, ‘That’s my cousin.’

The final segment of the tour is on the Natchez Bluff, where two historic markers commemorate Richard Wright and the Rhythm Night Club Fire.

Guides for the Richard Wright Ramble include Charles Wright and other members of the Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American History and Culture.

Tickets for the tour are limited. They cost $20 and include guided commentary, round-trip transportation from the Natchez Convention Center, refreshments and the exhibit at Historic Jefferson College.

Tickets and information are available by calling 601-446-1289 or toll-free 866-296-6522, emailing or visiting