Black Boy Chapter 2
When they finally scrape together enough money to move, they make a stop at Richard's Granny's home in Jackson. Granny, a strict Seventh-day Adventist, has skin that is so light it is almost white, and she is often mistaken for a white woman. There, Richard first comes into contact with books and stories. A young woman who is boarding at Granny's house reads Richard the story of Bluebeard, who murdered his wives and hung them in a closet. When Granny finds out, she chides the woman, saying that stories are sinful. Life with Granny is full of punishment, but Richard still cannot contain his mischievous spirit. At one point when Granny is bathing him, she tells him to bend over so she can scrub his behind. He does, then whispers, "When you get through, kiss back there." Chapter 2, pg. 41 He is able to hide for a few hours before his mother finally catches him and beats him.
Meanwhile, he is slowly learning about the racism that is everywhere in the South. He notices for the first time, upon boarding the train that would take him to his newest home in Arkansas, that there are separate lines for blacks and whites. His curiosity prompts him to question his mother about his own family, asking whether his grandmother is white or black, and what race he and his father are. His mother answers his questions curtly, saying they are "white, red and black," but quickly tells him to hush, saying, "They'll call you a colored man when you grow up. Do you mind, Mr. Wright?" Chapter 2, pg. 49 He cannot communicate to her just what makes him curious, because it does not seem to have any practical basis, and yet he hungers to understand.
In Arkansas, the two boys and their mother live with her younger sister, Maggie, and Maggie's husband Uncle Hoskins. Richard likes both of them, and he gets enough to eat there. Nevertheless, he begins hoarding food from the dinner table because he is afraid they will run out of it at any moment. Uncle Hoskins runs a profitable saloon, but he has been told repeatedly that neighboring whites are jealous. Finally, he is murdered. The family flees to back to Granny's home in Jackson, then to another town, West Helena. There, Richard befriends some children and engages in anti-Semitism. The boys are young and ignorant, and Richard explains in hindsight that he is ashamed of blindly following his prejudices.
Aunt Maggie is now with another man, who calls himself Professor Matthews and who has been visiting while Richard and his brother are sleeping. Mrs. Wright and Maggie decide that Richard and his brother should be allowed to meet the professor, but that they must be quiet about his being there. They are bribed with various treats, including a poodle. They are not told why, except that "people are looking" for the professor. One day soon after, the professor comes to the house telling Maggie she has to leave with him, because he has knocked a white woman unconscious and then set fire to her house. The two leave, and Richard never finds out exactly what happened.
Without Maggie around, they are hungry again, and Richard resolves to sell his dog to a white person. He rings a doorbell in a white neighborhood and a young girl comes to the door. He tells her he wants a dollar for the dog, and she goes to get it. While he waits there, he begins to think about how orderly and clean everything is in the "white world," and how these are the people who "made Negroes leave their homes and flee in the night." By the time she comes back he has decided not to sell the dog to her, even though he is hungry. A week later, the dog is hit by a car, and his mother only says, "You can't eat a dead dog, can you?" Chapter 2, pg. 71
Richard becomes more aware of his surroundings, absorbing myths like "If I kissed my elbow, I would turn into a girl." Chapter 2, pg. 72 He leaves West Helena and returns to school, where all his mischievousness turns into shyness. Even though he can read and write, he cannot do it in front of a classroom. He curses himself. The children ridicule him, and he must fight to show his worth among his fellow students.
Soon after, the war ends, Christmas comes, and Richard is disappointed at the single orange he receives, though he eats the entire thing, including the peel.