Ellison set out to be a musician and trained at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama during the Great Depression. He had earlier played trumpet — and football — at Douglass High School. The last time he set foot in the city was 37 years ago, when the Ralph Ellison Library was opened at 2000 NE 23.
In a 1993 telephone interview with The Oklahoman, Ellison told why he still identified with his Oklahoma childhood. “In writing,” he said, “underneath, there's a great emotional continuum, and my early emotions found existence in Oklahoma ...” Asked what advice he had for young black men and women, Ellison said, “Remember that you are an American, and probably more American than many others who might oppose you; that you have a tradition here which is far more real than anything that we ever had from Africa.”
His seminal work, he said, was “an attempt to get at the Americanness of all Americans and how the races fit together or don't fit together; how the ideals of democracy were sometimes attained and very often ignored.”
Too many have ignored Ralph Ellison for too long. Your local library branch has his novel. In this 60th anniversary year of “Invisible Man,” we urge you to check it out.