Celebrated Black Novel 'Native Son' Gets New Film Adaptation

Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images; Courtesy of HarperPerennial Classics
Rashid Johnson and 'Native Son'

Artist and photographer Rashid Johnson will make his feature directorial debut with the project based on Richard Wright's classic novel.

Richard Wright’s classic novel Native Son will be adapted into a film directed by artist and photographer Rashid Johnson in his directorial debut

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Suzan-Lori Parks will adapt Wright's book for the Bow and Arrow project.

The novel, while first published in 1940, remains timely as it could easily be considered a forerunner to the Black Lives Matter movement. It tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a 20-year-old African-American man growing up in poverty on the South Side of Chicago and the series of events and decisions that will forever alter his life. 

Bow and Arrow partners Matthew Perniciaro and Michael Sherman will produce the film, with Malcolm Wright and Julia Wright serving as consultants on behalf of The Estate of Richard Wright.

Wright became one of the most important African-American voices of the era after his novel was published in 1940 and became an immediate best-seller. The novel was previously adapted into the 1986 film Native Son, starring Carroll Baker, Victor Love, Matt Dillon, and Oprah Winfrey

Johnson has had his work in museum exhibitions across the world, focusing his practice on an exploration of the contemporary African-American experience. In 2016, he was appointed to the board of trustees of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum, the first artist to be given the honor in nearly 40 years.

Parks was the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama, doing so for her play Topdog/Underdog. Parks is also a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant and has written the screenplays for Spike Lee’s Girl 6 and the adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.

The film is represented by the UTA Independent Film Group. Deals were negotiated by UTA on behalf of Johnson and Parks, APA on behalf of the Wright Estate and Levin Law Corp on behalf of Bow and Arrow.