Wright portrait unveiled

Published 12:44 am Friday, February 25, 2011

NATCHEZ — The image of famous Natchez native and author Richard Wright will remain a part of Mississippi for years to come.

A new portrait of Wright was unveiled Thursday in Natchez as a part of the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.

The new portrait was in honor of Wright’s recent selection into the Mississippi Hall of Fame at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson.

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Wright was born a few miles outside of Natchez in 1908, and he died at his estate in Paris, France in 1960.

Wright is renowned for such works as the novel, “Native Son;” the fictionalized autobiography, “Black Boy;” and a collection of stories, “Uncle Tom’s Children,” which was chosen Book-of-the-Year in 2008 by a statewide project called “Mississippi Reads.”

The new portrait will hang in the museum as a reminder of Wright’s work and life.

The painting was done by Katherine Buchanan of Brandon who said she was honored to be selected to do the portrait.

“It was a great privilege to paint a portrait of a man with a legacy as great as Wright’s,” she said. “Thank you all for the opportunity.”

Master of ceremonies and National Association for the Preservation of African American Culture board of directors president LeRoy White said the portrait is a great honor for a great man.

“It is nice to see one of Natchez’s own native sons being remembered,” he said. “This portrait will soon hang permanently in Jackson for all to see.”

Jerry W. Ward Jr., a professor at Dillard University in New Orleans, and nationally known Wright scholar, read a letter from Wright’s daughter Julia at the unveiling.

“My job here today has been made extremely pleasant,” he said. “I have the honor to read the message from the estate of Richard Wright.”

In the letter, Julia spoke of her appreciation toward NAPAC for honoring her father and for the new portrait.

She also spoke of another of her father’s lesser-known passions, photography.

Julia wrote in the letter that her father’s love of photography, and even of a trip he took to the Gold Coast in South America where he took many photographs.

In honor of her father’s spirit, Julia donated a small series of photos that Wright took while he was on the Gold Coast in Rio De Janeiro.

“These are photos that are rarely seen in the U.S.,” she wrote.

Wright family historian and Wright’s second cousin Charles Wright also attended the unveiling, delivering a few words on the importance of Wright’s literary career.

“He was regarded by many as a spokesman for the American Negro during his time,” he said. “There was power in the words he wrote.”

Natchez native and Wright fan Jermaine Hudson said the power of Wright’s words helped many African Americans through hard times.

“It is so great to know that others in the state will be able to go to Jackson and be able to learn about (Wright),” he said. “He was a different breed of writer, and if anyone deserves this honor, he does.”