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Thinking Through CrisisDepression-Era Black Literature, Theory, and Politics$
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James Edward Ford

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780823286904

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823286904.001.0001

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Down by the Riverside

Down by the Riverside

Richard Wright, the 1927 Flood, and the Citizen-Refugee

(p.35) Notebook 1 Down by the Riverside
Thinking Through Crisis

James Edward Ford III

Fordham University Press

Notebook 1 argues for the centrality of movement to Richard Wright’s lesser-known novella “Down by the Riverside,” which is inspired by the labor conflicts of the Delta and the 1927 flood. An analysis of Wright’s fiction and historical documents reveals how labor conditions limited economic solidarity among the indebted. However, the flood also reveals the critical consciousness that evolved among the indebted who eventually became refugees in the relief camps. Despite the tragic story Wright tells, he offers readers a glimpse of the Event, wherein fear and guilt are broken and no longer paralyze the oppressed into inaction. Notebook 1 not only attends to the brilliance of Wright’s fiction before Native Son. It also goes beyond Wright’s story to show the debates that developed in Black newspapers over the proper objectives and strategies for reconstructing the Delta after the flood, which echoes the sabotaged need for Reconstruction decades after the Civil War.

Keywords:   Event, the, indebtedness, refugee camp

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