Psychology Comes to Harlem
Rethinking the Race Question in Twentieth-Century America
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Fronsitpiece
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In 1945, the Wiltwyck School for Boys opened its doors to Richard Wright. While researching a book on youth delinquency, the celebrated author visited the school, which took in and counseled troubled youngsters from impoverished and neglected parts of New York City, including Harlem. Located in a hamlet by the Hudson River,...
1 Richard Wright Writing: The Unconscious Machinery of Race Relations
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Richard Wright regarded himself as ‘‘something, no matter how crudely, of a psychologist.’’1 He offered that designation in 1960, the last year of his life, as a means of understanding his literary achievements and larger intellectual contribution. Many of Wright’s contemporaries were inclined to agree with his assessment and cast his...
2 Richard Wright Reading: The Promise of Social Psychiatry
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Psychiatrist Fredric Wertham’s Dark Legend: A Study in Murder (1941), a clinical account of a matricide, had a powerful effect on Richard Wright. More than a case study, Dark Legend offered a primer on psychoanalytic inquiry. When ‘‘any organized forces in mental life come into diametrical opposition,’’ Wertham wrote, ‘‘we speak...
3 Race and Minorities from Below: The Wartime Cultural Criticism of Chester Himes, Horace Cayton, Ralph Ellison, and C. L. R. James
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During World War II, Richard Wright did not relent in furthering a cultural politics that put segregation and race hierarchy firmly within national debates. In a period that seemed to require unanimity of thought and the suppression of dissent to harness collective effort, Wright continued to press the story of African American...
4 Strange Fruit: Lillian Smith and the Making of Whiteness
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In 1945, an interviewer asked Richard Wright about ‘‘white writers crusading for the Negro.’’ White writers ‘‘should combat white chauvinism while Negro writers combat Negro nationalism,’’ Wright responded. Moreover, in the place of ‘‘special pleas to the Negro to increase his militancy,’’ white writers needed to do more to ‘‘grapple...
5 Notes of a Native Son: James Baldwin in Postwar America
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In ‘‘Alas, Poor Richard,’’ written not long after Richard Wright’s death in 1960, James Baldwin addresses Wright directly, invoking the ‘‘argument which you began in me.’’1 Baldwin first met Wright, sixteen years his senior and the most famous black writer in America, in 1944. In the intervening years, Baldwin would also become an...
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This study has concentrated on the ways modern psychological inquiry figured in Richard Wright’s intellectual contribution to U.S. antiracist criticism and helped set its terms more broadly. Wright’s commitments to psychological and psychotherapeutic inquiry prompted him to reopen the question of what constituted a valid and...
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Essay on Sources
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Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2012