Richard Wright wrote Black Boy in 1944 and published it 1945. Although it follows Native Son in the publishing history, Black Boy is about his life as a child and a young man. At that time, he was still living in the United States. He had been active in the Communist Party but withdrew in 1942. It is clearly autobiographical and used his family names as the character names. It reflects its era by bringing to light how people suffered in the racially intolerant American society of the times. It is important because it clearly shows how these laws affected all people. They not only discriminated against the negro race, they punished the good people who did not discriminate. The discriminatory society of the times also brought out the worst in people who might otherwise curbed their actions in a more equitable society. Richard Wright found this American society so unbearable that he left and moved to Europe in 1947 a few years after Native Son and Black Boy established him as a literary success.
It is also in the category of a Bildungsroman.
In literary criticism, a Bildungsroman is a "novel of formation/ education/culture or coming-of-age story. [It is] a literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood  in which, therefore, character change is extremely important. A Bildungsroman relates the growing up or "coming of age" of a sensitive person who goes in search of answers to life's questions with the expectation that these will result from gaining experience of the world. (Princeton University Staff).
Looking at the Princeton definition of Bildungsroman it is clear to see that Richard Wright’s Black Boy fits into this category as his coming of age story that includes his transition from a bookish dreamy child to a man of letters, determined to use his word to help bring about a positive change in the world.
Richard Wright is not the only man who suffered under the laws of the time, or suffered the same type of abuse. That is clear from the story Battle Royale that is the first chapter in Ralph Ellison’s novel; Invisible Man. Battle Royal was first published in the 1948 Magazine of the Year just a few years after Richard Wright published Black Boy. (Biography.com ). It too is the story of an independently minded, studious young man. Ellison’s character is also a valedictorian; part of it includes a scene where the protagonist must engage in a “Battle Royale” a melee fistfight. This fight is staged for the amusement of the white men who are giving him his scholarship. (Ellison) The ties between how the controlling white men in Ellison’s story and the manipulative clerk in Wright’s story make it clear that there were men at the time who would find amusement in inciting black on black violence. (Wright).
Another story that has events that parallel Black Boy is Barn Burning that William Faulkner first published in the June 1939 issue of Harper’s Magazine. Barn Burning does not include the young black childhood experiences of the time; it is a coming of age story, however. In this tale, Sartoris Snopes witnesses his father’s violence towards others and experiences it personally. The story starts out as Sartoris in the General Store that also serves as the Town’s Courthouse. His father is on trial for barn burning and Sartoris does not want to testify to a lie as his father wants him to do. In contrast with Battle Royale and Black Boy, the abusive antagonist is his father rather than society as a whole. In common with these stories is that the boy must make a definitive choice and it advances him in his process of becoming a young man. In the case of Barn Burning Sartoris Snopes’ father Leonard Snopes, is about to burn another barn and Sartoris warns the family. Although it is not stated outright, two shots are heard, and it can be assumed that the father is dead. (Faulkner). This is not an uncommon literary device.
Another story that uses the literary device where the shots in the distance mean someone has died is A Good Man is Hard to Find there is the Southern landscape the slow bleak decay of the once lavish homes and the assumed social divide. However, the Grandmother around whom the story revolves s far different from the young men in the other stories. As the story unfolds the family goes on a road trip and, due to the Grandmother’s prompting ends up on a deserted road in the control of The Misfit and his partner, a pair of serial killers. She carries on a conversation with the Misfit while his partner takes her family away in twos and threes, shots ring out and only the killer returns. Her transforming moment comes when she looks on the Misfit as one of her own children, just before he shoots her. (O’Connor)
Black Boy is not just an autobiography it is also a Bildungsroman that chronicles Richard Wright’s coming of age. His story starts when he was an impoverished, bookish, child who rebelliously did not fit into the American society of the time. The story follows his growth and travails until he matures into to a man of letters. In the end, he is no less determined to address his need to bring about a positive change in the world. Although through the course of the story, he realizes the best way to do this is to use his talent with words.
Biography.com . Ralph Ellison biography. 2014. <http://www.biography.com/people/ralph-ellison-9286702>.
Ellison, Ralph. Battle Royal. 1948. <http://home.roadrunner.com/~jhartzog/battleroyal.html>.
Faulkner, William. Barn Burning. New York, NY, USA: Harper's Magazine, 1339. Story.
O’Connor, Flannery. "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." 1955 - 2014. University of Central Florida. <http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~surette/goodman.html>.
Princeton University Staff. "Bildungsroman." 2013. Princeton University . < Bildungsroman>.
Wright, Richard. Black Boy. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1944. Book.