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Grounds of EngagementApartheid-Era African American and South African Writing$
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Stéphane Robolin

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780252039478

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252039478.001.0001

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Race, Place, and the Geography of Exile

Race, Place, and the Geography of Exile

(p.33) Chapter 2 Race, Place, and the Geography of Exile
Grounds of Engagement

Stéphane Robolin

University of Illinois Press

This chapter takes up the early writing of Richard Wright and Peter Abrahams that starkly traces out the caustic terms of race and place in their formative years. The unmistakable similarities between Wright's and Abrahams' famed autobiographies, Black Boy and Tell Freedom, highlight the significant impact of their respective racial landscapes. The chapter reads both texts for the central role that racialized place played in forming the consciousness of these young men. Moreover, it argues that place also prominently affected the stylistic and aesthetic modes of the two autobiographies. This approach draws attention to rather different locales: for Wright, the American South from which he fled; and for Abrahams, the exilic space of Europe to which he fled. The resonances of their texts result from intersecting, rather than merely parallel, lives. As both writers fled the racism of their native lands, they crossed paths in 1940s Europe, a key locus of black transnational engagement. It was during their short-lived but generative friendship that Abrahams wrote and revised Tell Freedom, a process with which Wright was involved.

Keywords:   Richard Wright, Peter Abrahams, race, Black Boy, Tell Freedom, racialized place, American South, black transnational engagement, racism

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