"'FAITH' IN THE FIGHT OF BLACK MEN FOR FREEDOM": SCARCE FIRST SEPARATE EDITION OF RICHARD WRIGHT'S BRIGHT AND MORNING STAR, 1941
WRIGHT, Richard. Bright and Morning Star. New York: International Publishers, (1941). Small octavo, original yellow and black wrappers; pp.48. $950.
First separate edition of one of Wright's earliest and most provocative looks at "racial injustice and violence in the American South," based on rumors he heard as a young boy about a Black woman who "avenged the murder of her husband" by shooting the white men responsible, a handsome copy in fragile original wrappers.
"Wright's unflinching focus on the racial violence and class warfare that compromise American democracy has solidified his legacy as a preeminent social critic. But Wright was also a daring artist whose dazzling formal innovation was central to his politics… making him one of the most radical writers and controversial social critics of the 20th century" (Carpio, Richard Wright's Art and Politics). His still-controversial story, Bright and Morning Star, speaks to that radical vision in its bold departure "from the traditional ways in which Black life had been depicted." One of his earliest works, it is "unremittingly honest" in depicting "racial injustice and violence in the American South." The story is centered around a Black woman named Aunt Sue, who experiences a conversion from what "Kinnamon has called a 'consolatory Christianity' to an active, violent stance against social injustice and racial discrimination… After one son, Sug, has been jailed for his political activities," her other son, Johnny-Boy, is seized by white men determined to "get him to inform on his comrades." After she is beaten by a sheriff who tells her Johnny-Boy will be soon be dead, she makes her way through the dark woods toward the mob, a gun hidden from them. Listening to her son's screams and watching as the men shatter his body with a crowbar, she longs to shoot him and end his suffering, but knows she has only one chance to shoot Booker, a white man who had befriended Johnny-Boy but is, instead, a "Judas figure who is about to reveal the names of the people who are organizing dissent."
After Aunt Sue kills Booker the men swarm at her. She hears them shoot and kill Johnny-Boy before the next bullet tears through her body. Aunt Sue's rebellion, her "''faith' in the 'fight of Black men for freedom,' makes her a political martyr," and in the story's final words, she becomes one with "the dead that never dies." Wright based Bright and Morning Star on "rumors he hears as a young boy," about a Black woman who "avenged the murder of her husband by a white mob when she attended her husband's funeral with a shotgun wrapped in a sheet… and used it to kill four white men" (Richard Wright Encyclopedia, 25, 381-83). First separate edition: first printing: with no statement of edition or printings on copyright page; staple bound as issued; original yellow wrappers with "Literary Pamphlets" on rear wrapper (instead of later edition in orange wrappers with "Negro History Pamphlets" and "Printed in the U.S.A." on copyright page). Bright and Morning Star first appeared "in the May 10, 1938 issue of New Masses and the story was included as the final piece in the 1940 edition of Uncle Tom's Children… In 1941 Wright gave publishing rights to the story to the Earl Browder Defense Fund and it was published separately by International Publishers" (Richard Wright Encyclopedia, 55). Blockson 4918.
Text pristine, faintest soiling to bright wrappers. A fine copy.