Southwest Tennessee Community College

For Immediate Release

Date: September 23, 2008

For More Information: Brenda Rayner, 901-333-4247

Centennial Celebration to Honor Famed Author Richard Wright

Southwest Tennessee Community College will hold a Centennial Celebration in honor of the famed author Richard Nathaniel Wright (September 1908-November 1960). Wright was an African-American writer of powerful, racially-themed short stories and novels, and is noted for the acclaimed novels Native Son (1940) and Black Boy (1945), two bestsellers. He was born on a plantation in Mississippi and spent a brief portion of his early life in Memphis. He returned to Memphis as a young man and worked at an optical company and as a bus boy on Beale Street, where he also lived in a boarding house. Wright’s life in Memphis is very dramatically presented in Black Boy, which features his time in Memphis where he feigned securing books by H. L. Mencken from a then segregated Cossitt Library of the 1920s.

The Centennial Celebration will feature a keynote address and conversations with Julia Wright, the elder daughter of Richard Wright and the Polish-Jewish literary agent Ellen Poplar Wright. Julia Wright’s life’s work represents a profound commitment to civil rights across the globe. Her journalistic and literary credits include co-founding the Richard Wright Newsletter and contributing introductions to two of her father’s books, Haiku: This Other World, and recently A Father’s Law, her personal gift to her father on his centennial birthday.

Ms. Wright is actively involved in the double commemoration of the centennial of Wright’s birth, 2008, and the half-centennial of his death, 2010. Her own forthcoming memoir promises to provide a revealing look at her life as an activist and inheritor of her father’s literary legacy.

Everyone is invited to join in the Centennial Celebration at Southwest, which will also feature dramatic readings of Wright’s texts by Southwest students, directed by Levi Frazier. Activities will span several days on both the Union Avenue and Macon Cove campuses from October 3 through October 6. Julia Wright, the International Education keynote speaker, will present on October 6 at the Union Avenue Campus Theater at 10 a.m. A reception will follow.

For further information including specific dates and times, contact Dr. Yvonne Jones at 333-5268 or via e-mail at


Cutline: Julia Wright