Tuesday, 7:30 pm EST April 27, 2021
Online via Zoom
From the author of Native Son and Black Boy, The Man Who Lived Underground is a previously unpublished novel by Richard Wright, one of the most influential African American writers of the 20th century. Fred Daniels, a Black man coerced into confessing to a double murder he didn’t commit, escapes custody and hides in the city’s sewer system. Malcolm Wright, Richard’s grandson and the writer who penned the afterword to the novel, will be joined by John Kulka, the editor responsible for publishing the novel, and poet/writer/activist Kevin Powell (When We Free the World) for a conversation on this timely and incendiary novel about race and violence in America.
Presented in partnership with Library of America.
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Richard Wright (1908–1960) is one of the most influential American writers of the last century. His major works include the novel Native Son, the memoir Black Boy (American Hunger), and the story collection Uncle Tom’s Children.
Malcolm Wright is a filmmaker, writer, and conservationist and provides the afterword for The Man Who Lived Underground. He is Richard Wrights’s grandson.
John Kulka is editorial director at the nonprofit Library of America, dedicated to preserving America’s best and most significant writing. Previously he has held senior editorial positions at Basic Books, Harvard University Press, and Yale University Press. He has served on the governing boards of Dalkey Archive Press and the David Charles Horn Foundation.
Kevin Powell is a poet, journalist, civil and human rights activist, and author of 14 books, including When We Free The World, a new collection of essays.
The Man Who Lived Underground
By Richard Wright
Published by Library of America
Fred Daniels, a Black man, is picked up by the police after a brutal double murder and tortured until he confesses to a crime he did not commit. After signing a confession, he escapes from custody and flees into the city’s sewer system.
This is the devastating premise of this scorching novel, a masterpiece that Richard Wright was unable to publish in his lifetime. Written between his landmark books Native Son (1940) and Black Boy (1945), at the height of his creative powers, it would eventually see publication only in drastically condensed and truncated form in the posthumous collection Eight Men (1961).
Now, for the first time, by special arrangement with the author’s estate, the full text of this incendiary novel about race and violence in America, the work that meant more to Wright than any other (“I have never written anything in my life that stemmed more from sheer inspiration”), is published in the form that he intended, complete with his companion essay, “Memories of My Grandmother.” Malcolm Wright, the author’s grandson, contributes an afterword.
About Library of America
Now in its fourth decade, Library of America is a nonprofit organization that champions the nation’s cultural heritage by publishing America’s greatest writing in authoritative new editions and providing resources for readers to explore this rich, living legacy.