Portion of U.S. 84 named for Richard Wright

Published 12:01 am Sunday, February 24, 2008

NATCHEZ — As of Saturday, thanks to Mississippi House Bill 607, a portion of U.S. 84 in Adams County is the Richard Wright Memorial Highway.

Local and legislative officials gathered with Wright’s family members of the community to dedicate the highway in Wright’s memory Saturday.

The stretch named in Wright’s honor spans from the U.S. 84 intersections with Hobo Forks to the Franklin County line.

Email newsletter signup

“It is an honor to be present with you here in Adams County to honor your own native son,” former Gov. William F. Winter, the master of ceremonies, said.

Mayor Phillip West thanked the legislature for having the vision to go forward with the dedication.

West said he was first introduced to Wright’s work 25 years ago, and Wright’s message of hope still rings true today.

“Richard Wright could not have dreamed of a day when his works would be appreciated and celebrated in Natchez,” West said. “Today is a day that represents courage, hope and pain. Thank you Richard for your hope, thank you for your legacy.”

Mississippi state Rep. Robert Johnson, who helped author house bill 607, compared Wright’s life to that of one of his literary characters.

“When you get to the end of the book, (the character) began to realize that through all of the adversity he went through he began to feel free,” Johnson said. “Wright had to summer the adversity in order to be inspired and write the things that he did.”

Southern District Transportation Commissioner Wayne Brown said he had never read Wright’s work before preparation for the dedication began, but he now plans to read Wright’s entire catalogue.

“I was absolutely amazed at how alive he could make things,” Brown said.

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran said the dedication of the highway is a symbol of racial reconciliation.

“Richard Wright was a man who woke us up, who shook us up,” Cochran said. “This (highway) gives meaning to the promise we can work together.”

Wright’s daughter, Julia Wright, unveiled a sign officially designating the highway at the ceremony.

Richard Wright was born 100 years ago, near Natchez, and his novels and short stories focused on race relations. His best-known works are the novel “Native Son” and the autobiographical work “Black Boy.”

Wright died in Paris in 1960.