While the photo above may look like an ordinary home, it actually features the so-called childhood home of writer Richard Wright. Last week, I had the opportunity to see several Civil Rights and Civil War sites with the boyfriend. Somehow we managed to work the literature aspect into the trip as well. Going with him was like watching a movie with the “historian’s commentary” on. I could always count on him to confirm whether something was historically accurate or to quiz me on American and World history knowledge. Since he’s a teacher himself, you can trust there was always a lesson involved. This is a good thing. [deleted mushy talk]
During my disappointing search for African-American book news, I decided to make this post more personal. While mapping out our 3-4 day drive through the South, Natchez, Mississippi was added so that we could see Wright’s home. I knew I should have brought Black Boy along!
Today, while reviewing our trip photos, I was reminded to grab the book and find the specific passages involving his having lived in the pictured house. Here is what I found:
My mother arrived one afternoon with the news that we were going to live with her sister in Elaine, Arkansas, and that en route we would visit Granny, who had moved from Natchez to Jackson, Mississippi.
With that in mind, there is another landmark in Natchez’s Bluffs Park. The sign notes that Wright was born 22 miles away “nearby,” but the way the city claims him you would swear he spent most of his life in Natchez. Needless to say, that was not the case. Somebody call me out on this if I’m wrong. Even if the visit to Grandma’s house only took place once, visualizing how it may have been was difficult. The street was now rundown and ‘ghetto life’ demonstrated its finest assets. What’s really crazy is that Jackson, Mississippi doesn’t have one tourist site or monument dedicated to Wright. Again, if I’m wrong…let me know.
Before her death in November, 1998, Walker had written more than 10 books and an unknown number of poems, short stories, essays, letters, reviews, and speeches. Walker was honored with a host of awards and accolades as well as four honorary degrees. Jackson, Mississippi, her home for much of her life, has honored her by naming July 12 “Margaret Walker Day.”
So my question is, if Jackson, MS cares enough to mention Walker in their tourist guide and to dedicate a day to her, why can’t this same city better maintain her home? Maybe the family owns it and is forced to rent it out for money. Maybe people honestly just don’t care who Margaret Walker is (family, friends, and city officials alike). This house isn’t something that I would even verbally tell someone to see, let alone write a blurb about it in a city pamphlet. View the pictures and see the evidence for yourself.
If your cousins live in either one of the mentioned homes, tell them to email me and tell me what’s really going on. I’ll make a small donation toward repairs/upkeep. Dang.