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Ralph Ellison's classic “Invisible Man” published 60 years ago

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: February 26, 2012

Had he lived, Ellison would now be 98 and probably remain a celebrated author and controversial figure. Although not entirely invisible here, the author remains largely unknown or at least unread in his own hometown. A local library branch was named after him, but Ellison — an Oklahoman by birth and upbringing — wasn't inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame until six years after he died.

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.

The above was adapted from a March 10, 2002 editorial by Opinion Editor J.E. McReynolds

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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