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Black male spectators in Wright's fiction were drawn to the fascination of watching white characters on the screen in the Jim Crow Era. They were nonetheless aware that their desires for the seductive women on the screen or in the posters were taboo during this time, creating a sense of alienation and only forced ability to identify with white protagonists. This article analyzes the responses of Jake in Lawd Today! and of Bigger in Native Son as they succumb to the temptations of the glittery world of movies on the screen and in movie posters. The article then turns to Wright's exploration of later characters in "The Man Who Lived Underground" and Cross Damom in The Outsiders, who can be considered cinematic seers. The characters place themselves as protagonists in film plots and create their own sense of power over how cinema portrayed Black males. Wright wanted to find ways for more Black impact on both cinema and other forms of media culture This trajectory is traced in the article.
Regarded as the most prominent African American writer in America from 1940 until the ascendancy of Ellison and Baldwin in the 1950s, Richard Wright was influential in launching James Baldwin’s career. The publication of Wright’s groundbreaking protest novel Native Son (1940) assured his reputation. It seemed only natural that aspiring young writers such as Baldwin would appeal to him for advice. Wright’s influence on Baldwin came in the form of encouragement and mentoring, rather than solely through his direct impact on Baldwin’s stylistic techniques or fundamental themes. Wright took an active interest in Baldwin and facilitated his attempts to become a writer. As Baldwin recounts in his essay “Alas, Poor Richard” first published in Le Preuve in 1961, Wright agreed to read drafts of his unpublished first novel. According to Baldwin, Wright “commented very kindly and favorably on them [the drafts], and his support helped me to win the Eugene F. Saxton Fellowship. He was very proud of me then, and I puffed up with pleasure that he was proud, and was determined to make him prouder still.”