The Arkansas Humanities Council and National Endowment for the Humanities have awarded a research grant to The Elaine Legacy Center to document Richard Wright's life while living in Elaine, Arkansas. The research is being done in preparation for the first annual Richard Wright Festival scheduled by The Legacy Center for Sept. 4, 2018.

The Arkansas Humanities Council and National Endowment for the Humanities have awarded a research grant to The Elaine Legacy Center to document Richard Wright’s life while living in Elaine, Arkansas. The research is being done in preparation for the first annual Richard Wright Festival scheduled by The Legacy Center for Sept. 4, 2018.

Roy King, a retired teacher respected for his knowledge of the history of South Phillips County, is conducting the study which will be completed by November 30, 2017. King will be documenting Wright’s own books for references to Elaine, interviewing people who know about Wright’s time in Phillips County, and citing references other authors make to his time here.

The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture identifies Wright as “a writer of fiction and nonfiction. His many works, influenced by the injustices he faced as an African American, protested racial divides in America.” He was born September 4, 1908 and moved to Elaine in 1916 to live with his Maggie and Silas Hoskins, his aunt and uncle.

The Encyclopedia explains, “Silas Hoskins owned a popular saloon in Elaine, and one morning he did not return home. Later that night, a black man came to the house to tell the family that Hoskins had been murdered by a white man coveting Hoskins’ lucrative saloon. Wright and his family fled to West Helena for fear of their own lives, and later they went to Jackson, Mississippi.”

The Encyclopedia continues by quoting Wright, “Uncle Hoskins had simply been plucked from our midst and we, figuratively, had fallen on our faces to avoid looking into that white-hot face of terror that we knew loomed somewhere above us. This was as close as white terror had ever come to me and my mind reeled. Why had we not fought back, I asked my mother, and the fear that was in her made her slap me into silence.”

Wright lived many places, eventually settling in Paris. He is recognized as one America’s most important authors.

Oral histories locate the Hoskins home where Wright lived on the north end of Elaine and his uncle’s tavern on Main Street or Highway 44. Documentation is verify locations given in oral histories.

This research at the Elaine Legacy Center, one of four centers of Waves of Prayer. is supported in part by the grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.