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Quotes of the day: Richard Wright

Published Wednesday, September 03, 2014 @ 8:14 PM EDT
Sep 03 2014

Richard Nathaniel Wright (September 4, 1908 – November 28, 1960) was a communist African-American author of sometimes controversial novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerns racial themes, especially those involving the plight of African Americans during the late 19th to mid-20th centuries. Some believe his work helped change race relations in the United States in the mid-20th century. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


All literature is protest.

At the heart of all political movements the concept of the basic inequality of man was enthroned and practiced, and the skill of politicians consisted in how cleverly they hid this elementary truth and gained votes by pretending the contrary.

Every man, it seems, interprets the world in the light of his habits and desires.

If a man confessed anything on his death bed, it was the truth; for no man could stare death in the face and lie.

Love grows from stable relationships, shared experience, loyalty, devotion, trust.

Men are inventing ideas every day to justify for themselves and others their actions and needs.

Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread.

Our too-young and too-new America, lusty because it is lonely, aggressive because it is afraid, insists upon seeing the world in terms of good and bad, the holy and the evil, the high and the low, the white and the black; our America is frightened of fact, of history, of processes, of necessity. It hugs the easy way of damning those whom it cannot understand, of excluding those who look different, and it salves its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness.

Pity can purge us of hostility and arouse feelings of identification with the characters, but it can also be a consoling reassurance which leads us to believe that we have understood, and that, in pitying, we have even done something to right a wrong.

The world of most men is given to them by their culture.

Their constant outward-looking, their mania for radios, cars, and a thousand other trinkets made them dream and fix their eyes upon the trash of life, made it impossible for them to learn a language which could have taught them to speak of what was in their or others' hearts. The words of their souls were the syllables of popular songs.

There are times when life's ends are so raveled that reason and sense cry out that we stop and gather them together again before we can proceed.

They hate because they fear, and they fear because they feel that the deepest feelings of their lives are being assaulted and outraged. And they do not know why; they are powerless pawns in a blind play of social forces.

Violence is a personal necessity for the oppressed... It is not a strategy consciously devised. It is the deep, instinctive expression of a human being denied individuality.

Wherever I found religion in my life I found strife, the attempt of one individual or group to rule another in the name of God. The naked will to power seemed always to walk in the wake of a hymn.


(September 4 is also the birthday of Ivan Illich and Paul Harvey.)

Categories: Quotes of the day, Richard Wright


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