According to history, slavery in the United States ended shortly after the Civil War, with the 13th Amendment. However, upon closer examination, slavery, or something similar and descended from it, has continued to exist in American society long after 1865. In his fictional novel Native Son, Richard Wright shows that while Black Americans have been free in the eyes of the law since 1865, in the eyes of society, that of whites and their own, American Black's have continued to suffer the evils of slavery and a racism through the 1930's and beyond. Native Son tells the compelling human drama of a young man enslaved by the lack of positive exposure that his life affords him, as well as the negative aspect of his internalization of the label that society puts on himself and his people. While it is true that Bigger Thomas, the main character in Native Son, is a free man, Wright reveals through the events and specifically the conclusion of his work that Bigger and almost all Black Americans are still slaves as a result of societal forces exerted upon them both externally as well as internally.
Native Son begins as the story of a man with only the bleakest promise of a future, and essentially that remains true throughout the novel. Bigger Thomas is from a poor family, with only his mother to support himself and his two younger siblings; to make matters worse Bigger is not the work-a-day type and instead of committing himself to earning a paltry wage, he spends most of his days with his friends, either wasting time or attempting petty crimes. Based upon the mandates of defacto segregation, the Thomas family, like all other lower class Blacks are forced to live in the ghetto regions of South Chicago, which prevents their interaction with white's, other than in employer/ employee or merchant/ customer relationships. As a result, Bigger and his race are conditioned from the day they are born to fear and hate white people with an outward respect and reserve that only intensifies the anger felt for the wrongs of the past and the shabbiness of their situation in the present day (being about 1930).