Richard Wright finished the manuscript of The Man Who Lived Underground in December 1941. The first copies of the novel reached bookstores in April 2021. The story behind the eighty-year publication delay is revealing.
In 1940, with Native Son still on the bestseller lists, Wright’s editors at Harper & Brothers saw a chance to leverage his status as America’s leading Black writer. They had a hunch that an uplifting tale with Wright’s name on it would be a hit and pressured the celebrity author for a new book under the upbeat title Black Hope. Wright agreed to the idea and began a novel about female domestic workers.
But the Black Hope project languished. In J…
Citation: Chura, Patrick. "The Man Who Lived Underground". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 21 June 2021 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=40533, accessed 28 September 2021.]