|Wright was born on a plantation in Mississippi but grew up in Memphis and educated himself by means of his extensive reading. After a series of menial jobs, including a period of down-and-out joblessness in Chicago during the Depression, Wright's fiction began to be published, beginning with UNCLE TOM'S CHILDREN in 1938. He was strongly influenced by Stephen Crane, Sinclair Lewis, Theodore Dreiser, and other naturalistic writers of the period, as well as by Proust and Gertrude Stein. Wright was the first black novelist to describe the lives of black people in the northern ghettos of northern cities, and the rage and helplessness blacks feel in the face of their exclusion from white society. After World War II, Wright became an expatriate, living mostly in Paris, though he also wrote about Africa and Spain. During the 1960s, his books were an influential force in the Black Power movement in America.
|Arnold Rampersad has been the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature at Princeton University, in addition to having taught at Stanford, Rutgers, and Columbia universities. His first book was on a lesser-known work by Herman Melville, and he teaches American literature of all periods. Rampersad has distinguished himself as a biographer; his book on W.E.B. Du Bois and his magisterial two-volume life of Langston Hughes are cited as examples of the craft of biography. Rampersad collaborated with Arthur Ashe on his biography, DAYS OF GRACE. Rampersad wrote his highly regarded biography of Jackie Robinson with the cooperation of Robinson's widow and family. He has also edited and written introductions for a number of collections in American literature, has written numerous reviews and scholarly articles. Rampersad was the recipient of a MacArthur award, also known as "the genius grant."