Study Guide

Black Boy Chapter 8

By Richard Wright

Chapter 8

  • It’s summer again, and you know what that means. No? Richard is looking for a job again.
  • He tries at the mill, but being small and frail and liking the idea of his fingers not being chopped off by a power saw, he decides that’s not the place for him. We agree.
  • Some time later, Richard is walking through town when he sees his friend Ned looking sad. Why the long face, Ned? Ned tells Richard that white people killed his brother because he was hooking up with a white prostitute.
  • Cue Richard's phobia of white people. For days, he can’t speak or do anything.
  • After his paralyzing fear recedes a little, Richard kicks up the job search again. Finally, he decides to try up north, where some of his friends found work.
  • Around this time, Richard realizes that people are starting to be a little afraid of him. One day, he’s at home hanging out with his cousin when Uncle Tom (the one from the razor fight) yells at her for even talking to Richard.
  • Richard realizes that, ever since the fight, Uncle Tom has been convinced that Richard’s crazy. Given that Richard thinks there’s nothing odd at all about threatening to cut his uncle with razor, he might be right.
  • With this news, Richard decides that he is going to leave home as soon as ninth grade is over.
  • Drumroll please… Richard is the valedictorian of his school! Yay!
  • And of course it doesn’t go as planned. As valedictorian, he has to write and give a speech at graduation. He does. But when it comes time to graduate, the principal tells him that white people are going to be in the audience, and has to give a different speech—one that the principal wrote for him.
  • When Richard refuses, the principal threatens to stop him from graduating. Everyone tells him just to read the stupid speech, but Richard sticks to his guns.
  • By the time he graduates, Richard is so over this stupidity that he walks out immediately after his speech.
  • At this point, we’re surprised that he didn't just title the book "Screw everyone. P.S. Especially you, Aunt Addie".