A portrait of Oklahoma native, author and musician Ralph Waldo Ellison was hung Thursday at the state Capitol, a building Ellison once worked in as a janitor.
Ellison, who was raised in the Deep Deuce area of Oklahoma City, wrote the widely acclaimed novel “Invisible Man,” for which he won the National Book Award in 1953. The novel tells the story of an educated black man in pre-civil rights-era America and the difficulties he faced in a society that refused to recognize him. It is often cited as one of the greatest American literary works.
Speaking at the unveiling, Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, told the crowd gathered in the second-floor rotunda that getting a portrait of Ellison in the Capitol was a goal of his since becoming a member of the Senate four years ago.
“If you look around our floor, there are other portraits of obviously famous Oklahomans, including famous African-Americans,” Holt told The Oklahoman in October. “So, it's just kind of a mystery to me why Ralph Ellison got sort of overlooked.”
The portrait is by Oklahoma artist Tracey Harris, who also painted portraits of Pawnee Bill, May Lillie and Lucille Mulhall, all of which are on display on the fifth floor of the Capitol.
The Ellison painting is on display on the fourth floor of the Capitol.