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Friday Lunch with Laila Amine
“I was looking at myself”: Richard Wright’s Return to West Africa

In summer of 1953, Richard Wright traveled to the Gold Coast for a couple of months to report on its bid for independence from Britain. Black Power: A Record of Reactions in a Land of Pathos, one of the author’s first forays into surging anticolonial struggles, was not well received by postcolonial critics. Many contended that Wright’s curiosity to see if any of him is still in Africa combined with his lack of knowledge about the continent hindered his ability to connect with Ghanaians and make their voices heard.

Against charges that Wright’s diasporic connection only marshals a rhetoric of distance and difference, I argue that his return as “the long lost son of Africa,” is mediated by another metaphoric return to his Southern roots and its enduring legacies of slavery, one that also produces solidarity amongst the “Wretched of the Earth.” This other implicit return sheds new light on Wright’s vision of Ghana, particularly his controversial treatment of poverty and race politics.

Laila Amine is an Associate Professor of English at UW-Madison.

Sep 23, 2022 12:00 PM in Central Time (US and Canada)

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