Monday, February 07, 2011


White Man Listen!, Richard Wright, Doubleday & Company, 1957, 137pp

 Here we have a collection of controversial lectures that Richard Wright delivered at various universities in Europe from 1950 to 1956. These lectures represent an overview of his thoughts and analyses regarding colored, oppressed and colonized peoples all over the world; the overview developed through his broad study and actual discussions with such peoples.

 "The Psychological Reactions of Oppressed Peoples" is an effort to give Western Whites a view into the minds and hearts of such individuals. It includes a bold portrayal of the differences in spiritual outlook between the various cultures.

 "Tradition and Industrialization" deals with the conflicted position of what he calls the "tragic elite" in Asia and Africa: people who have been educated in Britain, Europe and Asia, only to return to their native lands wanting to bring their countries into 20th century life but not able to be wholly native nor completely Western.

 "The Literature of the Negro" is perhaps the first attempt by a Black literary man to provide an overview of writing by Black Americans. He covers novelists, poets, and memoirists.

 The final section, "The Miracle of Nationalism in the African Gold Coast," continued to help me understand the extremely difficult social and political necessities of building nations in Africa after centuries of colonialism, economic rape, and Christian influence in these lands.

 If we White people had been able to listen to Richard Wright in the 1950s, we might have a different world today. It is admirable that this man was able to express such ideas so cogently and I found them still very worthwhile in the 21st century. Sadly, like the idea of peace, getting the White man to listen may be just a dream some of us had.

(White Man Listen! is out of print, but can be found in hardcover and paperback in libraries and from used booksellers.)


  1. Anonymous12:23 PM

    Hi Judy: I haven't read this one, but he wrote Native Son, which I read in college and had a profound effect on me. I believe he was also one of the writers in the WPA Writers' progarm. I'll have to put this on my list.

  2. Lisa, I have been deeply effected by every one of Richard Wright's books. I only have one left to read, The Long Dream, which I am starting tomorrow.