Richard’s grandmother joins the family in Chicago and together they move to an apartment at 4804 Z St Lawrence Avenue, near the railroad tracks. His mother’s paralysis then returns once more after an attack of encephalitis. When Richard is laid off by the hospital in the summer of 1934 he works again as a street sweeper and ditch digger after which he is hired to supervise a youth club organized to counter juvenile delinquency among blacks on the Southside.
He attends the first American Writers’ Congress held in New York in April where he spoke on “The Isolation of the Negro Writer” and meets Chicago novelist James T. Farrell and becomes one of the fifty members of the national council of the newly formed League of American Writers.
He attends two other writers’ congresses: the Middle West Writers’ Congress in August and the National Congress of the John Reed Clubs in September. He was already reading Henry James, more especially the prefaces to the New York edition, Gertrude Stein, William Faulkner, T..S. Eliot, Sherwood Anderson, Dos Passos, Eugene O’Neil, Stephen Crane, Dreiser, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, D.H Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, John Galsworthy, Thomas Hardy, ,Charles Dickens, George Moore, Carlyle, Jonathan Swift, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Chekhov, Proust, Alexander Dumas, and Balzac.
In November he lectures on the career of Langston Hughes to the Indianapolis John Reed Club.
Wright publishes a poem “Between the World and Me” about lynching in the Partisan Review. He falls seriously ill with pneumonia in the summer. His article “Avant-Garde Writing” won second prize in a contest sponsored by two literary magazines but is never published.
His grandmother dies and the family with Wright still virtually its sole support moves to 3743 Indiana Avenue. He is then hired by the Federal Writers Project as part of the Works Progress Administration to help research the history of ILLINOIS and of the Negro in Chicago for the Illinois volume in the American Guide Series. He also discusses the influence of Hemingway with fellow writers in the federal project.
In 1936, Wright publishes “Transcontinental” a six-page radical poem influenced by Walt Whitman and Louis Aragon in International Literature. He also becomes principal organizer of the communist -party-sponsored National Negro Congress held in Chicago.
Thereafter, the Party leaders decide to disband all clubs and assign writers to composing party pamphlets and other propaganda. Richard begins to detach himself from the party.
Buddy Nealson, a member of the Communist International, is sent to Chicago to take over the black Communist movement. Nealson launches a campaign to rid the party as well as th club of all “Negro Trotskyite elements,” or traitors to the party.
In 1935, Richard attends a party conference in New York where white communists rescinded an offer to find housing for him. Richard realizes it is because he is black and is shocked that. even within the Communist Party, racism exists. At that point, even Richard’s notion that the Communist party has achieved his goal of racial unity is broken. To make matters worse, Wright was quickly denounced as a bourgeois intellectual by black communists who were perturbed that Wright did not speak as they did, even though he had been forced, by circumstance, to end his public education after the completion of grammar school.
Dejected, Richard is defeated in the vote to maintain clubs and the John Reed Clubs are officially dissolved.
Free of party relations, Richard turns to his writing. He becomes aware that Buddy Nealson has accused him of being a party degenerate and a traitor. One day, Ed Green stops by to tell Richard that Buddy Nealson wishes to speak to him. When Richard goes to meet him, Nealson tries to recruit Richard back into the party to win the fight against Fascists. He orders Richard to organize a committee against the high cost of living. Though he wants to, Richard cannot bring himself to quit. He accepts the task.
One day, he is called to another meeting with Nealson and one of his friends, named Smith who wishes to send Richard on a task in Switzerland, which Richard rejects. At the next unit meeting, Richard officially resigns from the party. The party shuns Richard and he is accused of being involved in a Trotskyite group. He is transferred from his work at the South Side Boys’ Club to work in the Federal Negro Theatre as a publicity agent. Working with a talented Jewish director named Charles DeSheim, Richard sees that the theater’s talents are going to waste and sets him on producing a series of one-act plays about Negro life. But the actors picket, forcing DeSheim and Richard to accept their papers and leave the theater.
Transferred to white experimentalist theater as a publicity agent, Richard vows to keep his mouth shut, steer clear of black theater, and avoid all party members.
One evening, a group of black communists invite Richard to attend a Sunday meeting, where Ross will be tried for being a traitor. Richard attends out of curiosity. After being charged with the crimes, Ross breaks down and accepts that he is guilty while asking the party for forgiveness. Richard finds his submission amazing and feels that the entire party has become blind by corruption. He leaves the trial in disgust. Afterwards, only one party member, Harold, has the courage to speak to Richard.
Wright juxtaposes himself with Ross, the party member accused of anti-leadership behavior and inciting to riot. Both Ross and Wright are accused of being traitors to the party. Ross is placed on trial and is somehow “broken” in spirit. But Richard is able to maintain his strong will, despite his inability to stand his ground within the party whilst Ross breaks down. Richard suffers growing isolation from the party and the black community. Whereas Ross is dependent on his peers for social and emotional support, Richard is able to survive on his own and in loneliness ¬ for that is the way he has done for almost his entire life.
Through the club, Wright edited Left Front, a magazine that the Communist Party ultimately shut down in 1937, despite Wright’s repeated protests. Throughout this period, Wright also contributed to the New Masses magazine.
Ultimately, Wright’s insistence that young communist writers be given space to cultivate their talents and his working relationship with a Black nationalist communist led to a public falling out with the party and the leading African American communist, Buddy Nealson. Wright was threatened at knife point by fellow-traveling coworkers, denounced as a Trotskyite in the street by strikers and physically assaulted by former comrades when he tried to join them during the 1936 May Day march.
By 1935 he found work with the Federal Negro Theater in Chicago under the Federal Writers’ Project. He wrote some short stories and a novel but they were not published until after his death.
In 1937 Wright moved to New York City, having fallen out with the Chicago chapter of the Communist Party where he helped start New Challenge magazine and was the Harlem editor of the Daily Worker as well as coeditor of Left Front. Wright forged new ties with the party after establishing himself in New York. He worked there on a Writers’ Project guidebook to the city New York Panorama (1938) and wrote the book’s essay on the Harlem neighborhood. He also helped edit a short-lived literary magazine, New Challenge.
Wright’s literary career was launched when his short story collection, Uncle Tom’s Children (1938), won first prize for the Story magazine contest open to Federal Writer’s Project authors for best book-length manuscript. Harper’s published this collection with “Fire and Cloud,” “Long Black Song,” “Down by the Riverside,” and “Big Boy Leaves Home”; in 1940 the story “Bright and Morning Star” was added, and the book was reissued. Wright gained national attention for Uncle Tom’s Children which fictionalized the incidents of lynching in the Deep South. It earned him a Guggenheim Fellowship, which allowed him to complete his first novel, Native Son (1940).
Richard was transferred from the Federal Experimental Theater to the Federal Writers’ Project, writing guidebooks. Many of his co-workers are Communist members, but they are not allowed to speak to him because he has been deemed a traitor. One day the project administrator calls Richard into the office and informs him that several of his co-workers are trying to drive him away from his job. Richard learns that his dismissal from the theater project was also related to his relations with the party. His boss refuses to dismiss him on political grounds. Meanwhile, Richard’s co-workers call him profane names.
Richard decides to end everything by making an appointment with the head of the local Communist Party. But instead, he is only able to make an appointment with the secretary’s secretary, a girl named Alma Zetkin who says almost nothing to him and he leaves without accomplishing anything.
On May Day of 1936, the union votes that everybody should march in the procession. Following printed instructions of where to meet his correct group for the parade, Richard learns that he is 15 minutes late and is instructed to fall in anywhere. Richard is invited by a black communist ¬ an old party friend ¬ to march with the South Side Communist Section. When he is seen by Cy Perry ¬ a white Communist ¬ he is instructed to fall out of their ranks and leave the parade. Asking his black friend to speak up, Richard receives no support and is physically thrown out of the parade. From that day forth, Richard decides to fight back using words, fight back through his writing.
Richard finally realizes the limitations of the Communist Party and their ignorance toward his own motivations. This pushes him over the edge. Richard feels that Communism has distorted the racial issue facing the black community, and when his friend fails to speak back to Cy Perry, he sees it as akin to the racism he encountered in the South. The May Day parade is a final turning point in Richard’s isolation where he realizes that he may always be alone in his ideas and beliefs.
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