An Analysis of Richard Wright’s Blueprint for Negro Writing (1937)
An African-American literary icon, Richard Wright was born in 1908 and died in 1960 (Wallach; Wright, “Uncle Tom’s” 882). Growing up in America during the early 20th century, Wright witnessed the great oppression experienced by the African-American community in that time, instilling in him the strong desire to write for his race and struggles associated with racism in America (Wallach; Wright, “Uncle Tom’s” 882). Writing various literary pieces that talked about African-American oppression and strife for freedom and equality, Wright became a literary icon and a pride of his race (Wallach). Among his several prestigious literary pieces is his 1937 essay titled Blueprint for Negro Writing. As the title implies, Blueprint for Negro Writing entails Wright’s views regarding African-American discrimination and African-American literature (Flemming 13).
Blueprint for Negro Writing revealed Wright’s strong belief in the lack of nationalism in the African-American literature which he associated with the African-American writers’ lack of deep understanding of the real struggles of African-Americans in the working class (Flemming 13; Wright, “Blueprint” 98-99). In addition to this, Wright also strongly emphasized in his essay the gap between the African-American writers and African-American working class which he believed stems from differences in views, perspective and sense of nationalism (Flemming 13-14; Wright, “Blueprint” 98). Providing what seemed to be a guideline for African-American writers, Wright stressed the factors that promoted the gap between writers and working class (Wright, “Blueprint” 104). Aside from this, he also proposed possible solutions to the problem (Wright, “Blueprint” 105-106). Analyzing Wright’s Blueprint for Negro Writing, this paper will focus on answering the major questions raised by the paper. First of these questions is why is there such a gap or hiatus between African-American writers and the African-American working class?
As Wright stressed in the beginning of the paper, African-American writers are largely separated from the African-American working class despite their efforts to represent the struggles of the working class in their literature, stating that “Negro writers have lagged sadly, and as time passes the gap widens between them and their people” (Wright, “Blueprint” 98). Wright sees the culprit to be brought about by the writers’ lack of nationalism expressed by the African-American working class (Wright, “Blueprint” 98-99). Wright also emphasized that the differing views of African-American writers and African-American working class towards the society was also a reason for the lack of unity between the two groups and the former’s inability to represent the latter through their literary pieces (Wright, “Blueprint” 98-99). In addition to this, Wright also believed that the African-American writers’ pursuit of individual freedom through individual achievements pushed them away from representing the working class and the ideals of their entire race (Wright, “Blueprint” 99).
Aside from the question regarding the separation of African-American writers and African-American working class, Wright’s essay also questioned the inability of African-American literature in his time to accurately describe the “needs, sufferings, and aspirations” of the entire mass of African-American people. Answering this, Wright emphasized the inability of African-American writers to create pieces that addresses the Negroes (Wright, “Blueprint” 98). As Wright stated, “[a]t best, Negro writing has been something external to the lives of educated Negroes themselves,” emphasizing that Negro writing has failed to concentrate on Negroes themselves (Wright, “Blueprint” 97). This dilemma, as described by Wright, was also attributable to the division of Black people into two cultures during the massive racial oppression in the early 20th century, stating that “[t]wo separate culture sprang up: one for the Negro masses, unwritten and unrecognized; and the other for the sons and daughters of a rising Negro bourgeoisie, parasitic and unmannered” (Wright, “Blueprint” 99). Considering the Negro writers as belonging to the latter culture, Wright explained that the absence of Negro nationalism and representation of Negro working class in African-American literature resulted from the Negro writers’ failure to see the ideals of the more oppressed members of their race (Wright, “Blueprint” 99).
Aside from the two questions explained above, the social, historical, political and economic factors associated with the increase in gap between Negro writers and Negro working class are also explained in the paper. As explained by Wright, the difference between the two groups with regards to social perspective is a key social factor in the perpetration of the gap or hiatus (Wright, “Blueprint” 98-99). Viewing the society as something “fixed and admired,” Negro writers keep themselves from fully realizing the struggles of Negro working class who view the society as something “becoming” (Wright, “Blueprint” 98-99). Aside from social factors, Wright also provided political factors that contribute to the increasing gap between Negro writers and Negro working class. As Wright explained, Negro writers may also be influenced by political allies capable of providing freedom and to avoid alienating them, literary pieces often divert from representing or discussing the major concerns of Negro working class (Wright, “Blueprint” 101). With regards to historical factors, Wright emphasized that Negro writers have deviated from fulfilling the historical function of writing (Wright, “Blueprint” 100). Such observation was best described by Negro writers’ act of writing for a small White audience instead of writing to represent and record the struggles of African-American working class over time (Wright, “Blueprint” 100). Economically, Wright observed that the gap between African-American writers and African-American working class was promoted mostly by said status differences between the writers and the working class (Wright, “Blueprint” 99).
onsidering the weight of the gap between Negro writers and Negro working class, Wright proposed solution that may bridge the said gap. Wright explained that in order to bridge the gap between Negro writers and Negro working class, the “mode of isolated writing and living” must cease and Negro literature must be integrated with the entire American literature (Wright, “Blueprint” 105). Aside from this, Wright also emphasized the Negro writers’ need to identify their role and the differences they can do with their ability (Wright, “Blueprint” 106). Ideologies of African-American nationalism should also be unified and represented as one (Wright, “Blueprint” 106).
Personally, I think the solutions or ways to bridge the gap proposed by Wright are correct. Reviewing the oppression that happened in Wright’s time, any form of representation to voice the African-Americans’ struggle for social equality were highly important and if writers were all aware of the power of their ability in that time, a lot would have changed and freedom for Negroes may have seen fulfillment a lot earlier. If all African-American writers in Wright’s time expressed the same nationalism in literary pieces, uniting with Negro working class in advocacy, no division would have taken place and the call for freedom would be louder.
Flemming, Tracy. “Black Marxism, Creative Intellectuals and Culture: The 1930s.” The Journal of Pan African American Studies 3.9 (2010): 7-24. Web. 15 Jul. 2015.
Wallach, Jennifer Jensen. “Richard Wright.” Oxford Bibliographies (24 Jul. 2013). Web. 15 Jul. 2015.
Wright, Richard. “Blueprint for Negro Writing.” Within the circle: an anthology of African-American literary criticism from the Harlem Renaissance to the present (1937): 97-106. The New Black 5324. Web. 15 Jul. 2015.
Wright, Richard. Uncle Tom’s Children Book. New York: Viking Press, 1991. Print.