Note for Richard Wright’s 105th Birthday
In 1942, the psychologist Fredrick Wertham sent Richard Wright two verses, one on January 15 and the other on May 27. The haunting lines of the first
Where men have always looked around
And searched for secrets never found,
You saw a vision, dark, profound;
You heard beneath a distant sound;
You took the lid off the Underground.
are illuminated by the second verse entitled Underground
The Freudians talk about the Id
And bring it below
But Richard Wright took off the lid
And let us see the woe.
It is likely that the only works by Wright that Wertham might have read before 1942 were Uncle Tom’s Children, Native Son, and 12 Million Black Voices. His insights about Wright’s intellectual acumen are germane in discussions of Wright’s fiction and non-fiction. Like William Blake, Wright was a visionary, one who exposed deep recesses of human consciousness. One is not surprised that he discovered quite early that Freudian theory might conceal as much as it reveals. Pulling off the lid and urging people to ponder material and mental damages was Wright’s forte.
On September 4, 2013, I celebrate the presence and power of Richard Wright’s mind.
Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
Note for the note: Wertham’s correspondence with Wright is contained in the Wright Papers, JWJ Mss 3, Box 108, Folder 1677 at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.