Flinging a New Star: “Fire and Cloud” and “Bright and Morning Star” as Reflections of Richard Wright’s Changing Relationship with Communism

April Conley Kilinski


Richard Wright's collection of short novella's, Uncle Tom's Children, was originally published in 1938; in 1940, after the success of Native Son, a new printing of the text appeared with two additions.  The first was the introductory essay entitled "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow," which was written in 1937, and later served as part of Black Boy. The second was the novella "Bright and Morning Star." Michel Fabre notes that Harper's Magazine rejected this story, "but since it fit Party specifications even better than had the four previous stories, New Masses published it as part of a special literary supplement on May 10, [1938]" (164) . In fact, perhaps because New Masses originally published the final story, critical attention to the revised edition of book almost exclusively posits that the 1940 edition reflects Wright's commitment to Communism at the time. However, several of Wright's other writings-including the introductory essay to the 1940 edition, "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow;" "Blue print for Negro Writing," first published in New Challenge in the fall of 1937; "I Tried to be a Communist," first published in Atlantic Monthly in August and September 1944; and his responses to the Communist party's review of Native Son in 1940-also indicate that his focus in the late 1930s was more on the development of an individual black consciousness than on advancing the causes of the Communist party. By juxtaposing the final two stories, "Fire and Cloud" and "Bright and Morning Star," and considering them in terms of the other writings indicated above, I argue that the 1940 edition of Uncle Tom's Children (with the two additions) demonstrates Wright's growing ambivalence with the Communist Party between the years of 1937 and 1940.    


Richard Wright; Communist Party; Race; Uncle Tom’s Children

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21533/epiphany.v5i1.42


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