Black Boy

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A stern religious practitioner, Wright’s grandmother lives in Jackson, Mississippi with Grandpa, and runs a household that includes Wright for a great many years. Granny tries desperately to get Wright to believe in God, but it “doesn’t take.” She is often harsh with Wright, and never gives up the belief that Wright’s interest in books represents “the devil’s work.”

Granny Quotes in Black Boy

The Black Boy quotes below are all either spoken by Granny or refer to Granny. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harper Perennial edition of Black Boy published in 2015.
Chapter 2 Quotes

The next day Granny said emphatically that she knew who had ruined me, that she knew I had learned about “foul practices” from reading Ella’s books, and when I asked what “foul practices” were, my mother beat me afresh.

Related Characters: Richard Wright (speaker), Granny, Ella
Related Symbols: The “switch”
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

Richard's grandmother is deeply religious - and although this changes the moral atmosphere of the home in which the family spends time (after the orphanage and in Georgia, as opposed to Memphis), it does not reduce the threat of physical violence for Richard. Because Richard has stumbled upon the book owned by Ella (a teacher boarding with the family), Granny mistakenly believes that the books themselves have corrupted Richard (as he has made a lewd comment to her while bathing). This lewdness, Granny believes, comes from an "educated" mind. To her, the only education necessary for a young man is that of Biblical precepts, and even those sparingly. For the most part, whatever is taught in the house is taught at the end of the "switch."

Richard's first real interactions with books, then, are tinged with secrecy and danger. Books, for him, represent liberation, a life lived beyond the confines of his family's home. But for Granny and occasionally his own mother, these books represent a threat to the purity of Richard's mind. 

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Mama, is Granny white?
If you’ve got eyes, you can see what color she is.
I mean, do the white folks think she’s white?
Why don’t you ask the white folks that?
But you know.
Why should I know? I’m not white.
Granny looks white. Then why is she living with us colored folks?
Don’t you want Granny to live with us?

Related Characters: Richard Wright (speaker), Wright’s mother (speaker), Granny
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

In this heartbreaking section, Richard begins to learn what "race" really means in the context in which he lives, and the role it will play in his life. Richard notes that his Granny's skin is lighter than his, and he asks, therefore, if Granny is white. But his mother notes that his Granny will be called "black," just as he will be called "black," even though their ancestry is a mixture of African, European, and Native American families. Richard begins to see that the color of the skin itself is not "important" to those living in the racist South, so much as the distinctions that come with this racial separation. In other words, Richard, through his mother, learns that he is "black" because society says that he is "black," and that society will treat him unfairly, often violently, as a black man regardless of what he says to them. 

Chapter 5 Quotes

Uncle Tom, Granny says to come at once. Grandpa’s dead.
You certainly are a prize fool. Don’t you know that that’s no way to tell a person that his father’s dead?
I ran all the way out here . . . I’m out of breath. I’m sorry.

Related Characters: Richard Wright (speaker), Uncle Tom (speaker), Granny, Grandpa
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

Richard famously notes at the end of this passage that "he can never seem to do what people expect of him." He has tried his best to rush over to Uncle Tom to tell him what has happened to his father - but Uncle Tom replies that Richard has not done this correctly. In a sense, Richard has never been socialized at all - he has not been taught how to behave with friends, or relatives, or strangers; how to act in polite company. Richard does not really know how a family works, how people sit down to eat together, or talk. For Richard, life has been a series of struggles simply to eat, sleep, clothe and house himself, and stay alive. So when Uncle Tom tells Richard he doesn't know what to do with himself, Tom is, though harsh, correct - Richard has simply never been taught what it means to be in the world. He knows only how to suffer through it. 

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Granny Character Timeline in Black Boy

The timeline below shows where the character Granny appears in Black Boy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Racism Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...between “white” and “black” people from his mother. Richard is at first confused, since his Granny (his mother’s mother) has very light skin but is considered black. But his mother begins... (full context)
Chapter 2
Racism Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...brother will be moving to her sister’s house in Elaine, Arkansas, after stopping to see Granny in Jackson, Mississippi. Richard is so overjoyed at this news that he quickly packs and... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Richard’s mother and the two boys stop in Jackson to see Granny, who lives in a relatively large house. Granny is a deeply religious woman, African American... (full context)
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Richard’s mother falls ill again and remains in her bed. One night, when Granny is bathing Richard and his brother, Richard asks Granny, without thinking, to “kiss” his backside—a... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...and some of the more peaceful moments he and his brother enjoy with Grandpa and Granny. But Richard’s mother soon takes Richard and his brother aboard a train to Arkansas, where... (full context)
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Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
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But after some time, Richard’s mother decides that Granny’s strict religious rules in the house are too much to bear, and so she moves... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
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Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...called for by Richard, and announce that their mother has had a stroke. Richard finds Granny’s address and writes to her in Jackson, asking her to come to Arkansas to help... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Granny dictates letters to Richard, to be sent to other family members, asking for money, and... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...not specify which) calls both boys into a room filled with family, and says that Granny is too old to care for both Richard and his brother, and that the boys... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...beat him for his insolence, Richard begs again to be sent back to Jackson, to Granny and his mother, and Clark finally agrees to do so. By the end of the... (full context)
Chapter 4
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Richard recognizes that, as he is now an “uninvited dependent” in Granny’s home—since his mother is no longer earning money, but rather lying in her bed, and... (full context)
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Granny and Addie both feel that Richard is an ingrate, because he refuses to accept the... (full context)
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Later that day, Richard and Addie return to Granny’s home, and Addie begins yelling at Richard, again, for not respecting her, and for eating... (full context)
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...calls on him, and barely acknowledges his presence around the house. Richard is encouraged by Granny and others in the house to pray constantly, and the family incorporates religious rites into... (full context)
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Granny prepares to make one final effort to convince Richard to become a full-fledged member of... (full context)
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Granny, then, “mounts one final attempt” to bring Richard to the church. She takes him to... (full context)
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But Granny soon believes Richard’s apology, and asks him to continue praying in his room for forgiveness.... (full context)
Chapter 5
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
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Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Granny and Addie give up on converting Richard to Christianity, and Richard settles into an uneasy... (full context)
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Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Granny and Addie will not give Richard money for “earthly books,” meaning anything that is not... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...throughout the black neighborhoods of Jackson. He is able to do so, in part, because Granny permits work on non-Sabbath days, and because she cannot read, therefore she does not know... (full context)
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
One summer day, Richard is sitting on the porch steps with Granny, Addie, and mother—Granny and Addie are arguing about “religious doctrine,” as they often do, and... (full context)
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...to his room out of fear, and yells at Richard, saying that he has hurt Granny, that he is a fool and does the devil’s work. But Richard responds that he... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...the kitchen table one day that fall, and learns that Grandpa is very sick—that, as Granny puts it, he is now in his “final illness,” although Grandpa has been sick for... (full context)
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Granny does not allow Richard to attend Grandpa’s funeral, but Richard does not mind overmuch, and... (full context)
Chapter 6
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...recover from her stroke-induced paralysis, and begins going to a Methodist church in Jackson, although Granny does not support this, believing that the Seventh-Day Church is the only true one. Richard’s... (full context)
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...Richard's mother again falls ill. To bring in extra money and help around the house, Granny and Addie have Uncle Tom and his family, from the outskirts of Jackson, live in... (full context)
Chapter 7
Racism Theme Icon
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...trouble believing that Richard wrote it himself, and did not copy it from another source. Granny worries that Richard is “doing the devil’s work,” as does Addie, and Tom complains that... (full context)