Ralph Ellison's America

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America is woven of many strands; I would recognize them and let it so remain. It’s ‘winner take nothing’ that is the great truth of our country or of any country. Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat. Our fate is to become one, and yet many — This is not prophecy, but description. Thus one of the greatest jokes in the world is the spectacle of the whites busy escaping blackness and becoming blacker every day, and the blacks striving toward whiteness, becoming quite dull and gray. None of us seems to know who he is or where he is going.

Ralph Ellison: Invisible’s Epilogue in Invisible Man.
ralph_ellison

Ralph Ellison [Photo Courtesy of Knopf Books]

Arnold Rampersad’s prickly, irresistibly absorbing reassessment of Ralph Ellison (1914-1994) — the writer, the man, the vision — reopens some fascinating gaps in the legend of the canonical African-American novelist, plausibly dubbed the Jackie Robinson of American high culture.

For the Open Source conversation, Rampersad implies key questions about us: how does the author of Invisible Man (his lonely masterpiece, which won the National Book Award in 1953, over his hero Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea) help us see the complexities of black-and-white America in 2007? What remains of the Ellisonian “tapestry” idea of our country and especially of its culture? This is the vision sustained and extended by Ellison disciples like Albert Murray, Stanley Crouch and Wynton Marsalis, or by Ken Burns‘ PBS series on the blues-and-jazz tradition as the foundation of American classicism.

Might the ghost of Ralph Ellison be noting today that the last two US Secretaries of State have been African-American — the incumbent a minister’s daughter in earshot of Birmingham, Alabama’s infamous church bombing in 1963; might he remark on the Kansan-Kenyan ancestry of the Democratic darling, Barack Obama; might he observe the irreversible advance of gumbo flavors in sports, idiomatic language, dance, humor, fashion, music and all the rest… and shout: “I told you so!”

Or might the mordant voice in Ellison himself be leading the hindsight argument that Invisible Man turned out to be the swan song of folk blues culture? … that the folk-art-to-fine-art alchemy of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington hasn’t worked that way for ages… that hip-hop represents a triumphant commodification of subversive messages coming not from authentic artists or considered experience but strictly from commercial media?

Might Ellison’s blacker-than-he critics still be peppering him, and all the high-tone culture buffs, with an angry listen-here? Stop confusing cultural eminence with political power, Ralph Ellison! Come back to Harlem from the Century Club in midtown Manhattan. Come back from (of all things) the board of Colonial Williamsburg! Pay less attention to art for art’s sake, and more to the real suffering, exclusion, poverty and despair among brothers and sisters you were happy to rise above!

The glaringest Ellisonian irony in Rampersad’s story is that Ellison, the fount of a profoundly enthusiastic, optimistic and inclusive affirmation of American possibility, was also one of the great naysayers of his turbulent times. No to black power. No to Black Arts, as championed by Leroi Jones, who became Amiri Baraka. (Jones’ sociology of black music, Ellison said in a review, “is enough to give even the blues the blues.”) No to black-studies departments on campus. No to anything that smacked even momentarily, even tactically, of black nationalism, much less black separatism.

A surpassingly brilliant writer on jazz — himself a music major at Tuskeegee and almost professional trumpet player — Ellison can be selectively quoted to suggest he became a supreme old fogey who rejected bebop in the ’40s, slashed Charlie Parker and mocked Miles Davis in the ’50s, and virtually despaired of black music’s future after the Beatles and other had pillaged it in the ’60s. It could seem that the grandest, most sophisticated theorist of American inclusion had come to stand for something else. Ellison did not endorse Toni Morrison for membership in the Century Club, and when she was finally inducted, he did not greet her there.

There is a drift toward nastiness in Ellison’s later life. Readers of Rampersad’s book have noted their suspicions that the deeper he got into Ellison’s story, the less he liked the man. The critic and biographer Phyllis Rose says why in the new American Scholar:

His impulse to exclude is the most unattractive thing about Ellison, and it is at the heart of Rampersad’s understanding of his character. He had a way of describing people whose values and talents were different from his own as ‘mediocre’ and seeing himself as objectively better. He had earned what he had gotten by effort and merit. Others wanted to be given what they didn’t deserve. The beneficiary of incredible luck and historical political momentum, he acted as though he was uniquely qualified for all the honors showered upon him. His scorn for ordinary black culture and black people may have served him well as a younger man, energizing his achievements, but it didn’t serve him well in later life, making him harsh and judgmental, leading him to exhibit an unbecoming absence of sympathy, and perhaps crippling his own imagination.

Phyllis Rose, The Impulse to Exclude, in The American Scholar, Spring 2007.

To my taste there’s nothing quite as compelling in the personal history here (including the agonized, unanswered questions about 40 years of wheel-spinning on the second novel he never completed) as the dense beauty and truth of what Ellison wrote. Do not the stubborn, sometimes cranky but entirely trustworthy wit, integrity and style of Ralph Ellison still ring true? On, for example, the voice of the immortal blues singer Jimmy Rushing, with whom Ellison grew up in Oklahoma City.

Steel-bright in its upper range and, at its best, silky smooth, it was possessed of a purity somehow impervious to both the stress of singing above a twelve-piece band and the urgency of Rushing’s own blazing fervor. On dance nights, when you stood on the rise of the school grounds two blocks to the east, you could hear it jetting from the dance hall like a blue flame in the dark, now skimming the froth of reeds and rhythm as it called some woman’s anguished name — or demanded in a high, thin, passionately lyrical line, ‘Baaaaay-bay, Bay-aaaay-bay! Tell me what’s the matter now!’ — above the shouting of the swinging band. Nor was there need for the by now famous signature line: ‘If anybody asks you who sang this song / Tell ’em / it was little Jimmy Rushing / he’s been here and gone,’ for every one on Oklahoma City’s ‘East Side’ knew that sweet, high-floating sound…

For Jimmy Rushing was not simply a local entertainer; he expressed a value, an attitude about the world for which our lives afforded no other definition. We had a Negro church and a segregated school, a few lodges and fraternal organizations, and beyond these there was all the great white world. We were pushed off to what seemed to be the least desirable side of the city (but which some years later was found to contain one of the state’s richest pools of oil), and our system of justice was based upon Texas law; yet there was an optimism within the Negro community and a sense of possibility which, despite our awareness of limitation (dramatized so brutally in Tulsa riot of 1921), transcended all of this, and it was this rock-bottom sense of reality, coupled with our sense of the possibility of rising above it, which sounded in Rushing’s voice.

Ralph Ellison, “Remembering Jimmy,” (1958) in Living With Music: Ralph Ellison’s Jazz Writings, edited by Robert G. O’Meally, Random House, 2001.

Isn’t there yet much resonance and reality, much comfort and guidance in Ellison’s view of American life?

Arnold Rampersad

Professor of English, Stanford University

Author, Ralph Ellison: A Biography

Robert O’Meally

Professor of English and Jazz Studies, Columbia University

Author, The Craft of Ralph Ellison, and Living with Music: Ralph Ellison’s Jazz Writings

Adam Bradley

Assistant Professor of English Literature, Claremont McKenna College

Co-editor, Modern Library edition of Ellison’s posthumous novel, Juneteenth

Extra Credit Reading

Ralph Ellison, Ellison’s 1953 National Book Award Acceptance Speech: “If I were asked in all seriousness just what I considered to be the chief significance of Invisible Man as a fiction, I would reply: Its experimental attitude and its attempt to return to the mood of personal moral responsibility for democracy which typified the best of our nineteenth-century fiction.”

The Masticator, Jeff Wall and Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man, The Masticator, March 16, 2007: “Is staging elaborate photographs of scenes from great literature an art historical mis-step equivalent to filming and refilming great literature? Is rehashing stories that exist only in our minds a mere cheap trick that gets our approval only because we’re proud of ourselves for recognizing something we’ve read about?”

Saul Bellow, Man Underground, originally published in Commentary, June, 1952: “I think that in reading the Horizon excerpt I may have underestimated Mr. Ellison’s ambition and power for the following very good reason, that one is accustomed to expect excellent novels about boys, but a modern novel about men is exceedingly rare. For this enormously complex and difficult American experience of ours, very few people are willing to make themselves morally and intellectually responsible. Consequently, maturity is hard to find.”

Adam Kirsch, The Visible Ellison, The New York Sun, April 18, 2007: ” No charge is brought more often in Mr. Rampersad’s book than Ellison’s repeated failure to do anything to help younger black writers, even those who greatly admired him. Mr. Rampersad seems to have spoken to everyone who ever tried, and failed, to get Ellison to give them a blurb or a letter of recommendation.”

Jon Trott, Lower (for Ralph Ellison) – Black Writers, part 4, Blue Christian on a Red Background, February 9, 2007: “Exactly why Ellison flips my tumblers is hard to explain. But I think it has a lot to do with his being able to write a “racial” novel that nonetheless takes us past race into the heart of ourselves.”

Tom, A Life Made Visible: Questions for Arnold Rampersad, Review This Online, April 26, 2007: “I’m not sure if I like Ellison more after reading his life story–he was a difficult, flawed character in many ways–but seeing his single book placed in the center of a life filled with ambition and struggle makes it all the more impressive an achievement.”

Lindsay, Chaos and Imagination, we are such stuff as dreams are made on, April 11, 2007: “While the narrator at the end of the book might not know what his next step will be, Ellison’s next step is writing this novel… It seems to me that Ellison is trying to be a bridge between chaos and imagination, using one to understand the other.”

thomas, in a comment to Open Source, April 30, 2007: “If David Halberstam’s legacy is that we’ll always need journalists thrusting images of truth into our consciousness in the face of falsehood, Ellison’s is that we’ll always need novelists “thrusting forth its images of hope, human fraternity, and individual self-realization” and offering us alternative realities to our otherwise sad and brutal lot.”

VeritasRox, in a comment to Open Source, April 30, 2007: “The Invisible Man struggled similarly, as he failed to assume an identity compatible with Northern, Southern, Black, White, Socialist, or Capitalist expectations. As with his protagonist, it’s hard to label Ellision unless we’re willing to buck these easy identities and, without necessarily offering a satisfying explanation, crawl down into the sewers with him.”

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  • Potter

    Yes to the last question, or so it appears based on the blockquote above.

    The Albert Murray-Chris Lydon 2000 interview ( link above) was a good hour for the same reasons. I was smiling and thinking “my my isn’t he feisty!”, call it stubborn, cranky… but he gives you ample reward.

    I love the part where Murray says jazz reflects American behavior and America is a jam session, improvised, about the “frame of acceptance” ( as opposed to the “frame of rejection”) Life may be cruel, a dirty shame, but the blues-it’s lyric- accepts life as it comes and works the spirit up from there.

    Looking forward to the show.

  • I wish I could comment here but I can’t, I’m just not ready. This show is an example of one that creeps in, from blog to on air in a couple of days. This happens here once in a while when the flow of the shows seems to get clogged up. Some shows that I find only marginally interesting stand in the wings for months and get lots of great pre-air comments, and some shows that I think are great, fly by. Lets face it, after a show airs the comments usually die down, so there are some great show in the archives with only about 10 posts. Anyway the comments in the blog are always best if a show has time to ferment on the blog for a bit.

  • Potter

    Re MM’s comment above- If a show is going to happen on short notice, especially where reflection and perhaps some reading is necessary, then ROS should not judge the interest out here or the potential interest based on the number of posts.

    As well, I differ about the life of a topic post the airing. Often the show gets some of us started on the topic for a good post show dialogue. What is unfortunate is that it slips down the list to the left here until you don’t see it anymore. Then a few months hence, should s/t pop up in someone’s mind, or say in the news, that should attach to that discussion, the thread is not visible and the conversation which might be revived, is lost.

  • loki

    This is the conversation we must have every day in the United States till we truly become one and the many.

    These theme will be the underlying theme in the lection 2008. I pray the the candidates and our people with face squarely and honestly the issues of race and ineuality. I suspect that these issues underlie the concerns about immigration. We forget to often that Santa Fe NewMexico was founded before Jamestown,Plymouth and Boston. We forget that Africans and Hsipancis were a part of the building of the New World. We hate to fact the fact that aboriginal people were successful in living on the contintent (read 1491) long peopfre europeans landed.

  • thomas

    I was struck, during the David Halberstam show, by the comment made by one the guests who noted his colleagues were no longer proud of the work they did as journalists. Chris in an innocent sad gasp, replied “really?”

    We have this unrelieved despairing voice in our collective heads, telling us that our effort is futile, our lives are small, our work, nil. I feel it sitting in Tupelo, MS today, I feel it when I was in Nashville, TN, when I visit NYC. The force that of unrelieved despair in contemporary fiction which Ellison referred to in his Nat. Book Award Speech, abides today.

    If David Halberstam’s legacy is that we’ll always need journalists thrusting images of truth into our consciousness in the face of falsehood, Ellison’s is that we’ll always need novelists “thrusting forth its images of hope, human fraternity, and individual self-realization” and offering us alternative realities to our otherwise sad and brutal lot.

  • VeritasRox

    Thanks for a provocative and informative post on Ellison. As I read, I struggled to sort through the bits about Ellison’s disinterest in his disciples and his alleged arrogance to see if I could hold onto my somewhat mythic assessment of him as a writer and visionary. But I think this kind of human identity dissonance is something that Ellision wrote about, and that his modernist style (as well as his writings about jazz) supports. Logical coherence, neat cultural and racial divisions, linear ideas about progress–these are all things that, classically, people in positions of cultural power have imposed on a highly complex and often irrational reality. The modernist man, struggling to achieve the social construct of visibilty, may in fact best be understood through his paradoxical identities or un-anticipated actions. So while Ellison gives us reasons to enshirne him to the racial “Hall of Fame” along with Jackie Robinson and his ilk, he also challenges us to recognize how meaningless such pomp and circumstance can be in a world whose race-based problems are as difficult to sort out as the themes in an improvised jazz composition. The Invisible Man struggled similarly, as he failed to assume an identity compatible with Northern, Southern,Black, White, Socialist, or Capitalist expectations. As with his protagonist, it’s hard to label Ellision unless we’re willing to buck these easy identities and, without necessarily offering a satisfying explanation, crawl down into the sewers with him.

    A final thought: Ellison wanted us to value plurality and to embrace our complex and multi-cultural heritage. As he wrote in “The Little Man at Cheehaw Station” (1977):

    “We are, by definition and by the processes of democratic cultural integration, the inheritors, creators, and creations of a culture of cultures.”

    Among other things, this kind of makes you believe that a blog could produce a pretty good radio show, huh?

  • nother

    Today I emerged from my two-day immersion into Ellison’s story of invisibility. I stood along the Charles River today and studied my shadow withstand the powerful current. I half laughed, as a simplistic revelation occurred to me…that we all share the same dark colored shadow.

    The blackness protruded from me like a blank slate…daring me with waves to project what I might, upon it. I closed my eyes only to see more dark shadows and I started to feel disorientated and lost. I opened my eyes and peered down at my arm instinctively…a new wave of revulsion rushed through me as I recognized the comfort I felt from seeing my familiar white skin.

  • nother

    I keep thinking about what the old white civil rights fighter told me was his greatest revelation in the struggle. When it dawned on him the race problem was – a white problem not a black problem. Up until that point he had been trying desperately to help the blacks out of their dilemma.

    Ellison’s invisible man spends most of the book trying to educate the black people and fight off the naysayers like RAS. Towards the end he realizes that the white establishment has it’s own agenda. Power has it’s own agenda.

  • nother

    “This is all very wild and childish, I thought, but to hell with being ashamed of what you liked. No more of that for me. I am what I am!”

    A few lines down:

    “I can see you one of those old-fashioned yam eaters.”

    “They’re my birthmark,” I said. “I yam what I am.”

    A few lines down:

    “now I no longer felt ashamed of the things I loved, I probably could no longer digest very many of them. What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me? What a waste, a senseless waste! But what of those things which you actually didn’t like, not because you were not supposed to like them, not because to dislike them was considered a mark of refinement and education-but because you actually found them distasteful? The very idea annoyed me. How could you know? It involved a problem of choice. I would have to weigh many things carefully before deciding and there would be some that would cause quite a bit of trouble, simply because I had never formed a personal attitude toward so much. I had accepted the accepted attitudes and it had made life seem simple…”

  • nother

    Sorry about the multiple posts, but the thread is a little empty, so I figured I throw some of my favorite parts down.

    “All things it is said are dully recorded–all things of importance, that is. But not quite, for actually it is only the known, the seen, the heard and only those events that the recorder regards as important that are put down, those lies his keepers keep their power by.”

  • thomas

    nother, I think you hit on an interesting point in your last post. The invisible man represents what we might unconsciously know we should be paying attention to in our fellow man, but that we choose rather to ignore and to pass by as if he or she was invisible.

    It made me think of a Wendell Berry book entitled “The Hidden Wound,” –conceived and written in 1968-69 under the influence of the civil rights agitation–in which he tries to deal honestly with the fact that his family in Kentucky owned and sold slaves.

    Here’s an excerpt:

    For whatever responses, good or bad, I have been unwilling until now to open in myself what I have known all along to be a wound–a historical wound, prepared centuries ago to come alive in me at my birth like a heriditary disease, and to be augmented and deepened by my life. If I had thought it was only the black people who have suffered from the years of slavery and racism, then I could have dealt fully with the matter long ago; I could have filled myself with pity for them, and would no doubt have enjoyed it a great deal and thought highly of myself.

    But I am sure it is not so simple as that. If white people have suffered less obviously from racism than black people, they have nevertheless suffered greatly; the cost has been greater perhaps than we can yet know. If the white man has inflicted the wound of racism upon black men, the cost has been that he would receive the mirror image of that wound into himself. As the master, or as a member of the dominant race, he has felt little compulsion to acknowledge it or speak of it; the more painful it has grown the more deeply he has hidden it within himself. But the wound is there, and it is a profound disorder, as great a damage in his mind as it is in his society.

  • The idea of the oppressor having wounded himself is an interesting one to me. As the object of someone else’s abuse, I reached a point in my healing where I realized that I was the lucky one in the dynamic. As I dug through the psycho/emotional/behavioral ramifications on me, I would dig through an experience where I had to process my feelings and look at how I would move forward, but I did not have feel guilty or face any horror of what I had done to another and wonder how I could be so capable and whether I could trust myself, forgive myself, etc.

    When I have committed offenses against another, I have realized, I create a fear that others will do the same to me. I am all to aware of the capacity for that behavior and the seemingly uncontrollable nature of it. I can even become overly suspicious of it. By enacting it, I give it center stage.

    Perhaps, when it comes to societal ills, if we tell ourselves that we have only acted within a rightful order of some sort, then we ameliorate our fear of what else we might be capable of and of what others might be capable of committing against us.

    Somewhere in my rambling mind on this subject, the word vulnerability is floating around.

  • I haven’t read any Ellison, but in reading what is above, I wonder whether he was more of a believer in the power of individual and the melting pot of individuals than of claiming an affinity for a sub-group. He may have used th words “blackness” and “whiteness” as a lens into one aspect of the nature of America, but never intended to be seen as promoter of Black Culture. In my reading of the first quote above, he seems to be mocking the idea of blackness versus whiteness and saying that since we all exist simultaneously we co-create the fabric of an American culture that will become a reflection of all that is within it.

    His way of criticizing people for being mediocre may demonstrate arrogance. Or perhaps he set a high standard where he didn’t allow anyone to get a free pass based on race or class. (You can agree or disagree with whether his standards had any merit. I’m exploring possible intentions.)

    He wrote that we will all become one and that this is at it should be. In that context, I can see why he wouldn’t support Black Studies. While he recognized the reality that the white people had all the power and resources and the black people didn’t, perhaps he didn’t agree that the proper response was to promote black culture rather than an amalgamated American culture. In this way, he was saying that what black people bring to the culture is as valid as anything else, but not to be distiguished from or pursued as a path.

    Wonder what he would say about the nationalism of today’s more globally connected world?

  • rahbuhbuh

    “…the folk-art-to-fine-art alchemy of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington hasn’t worked that way for ages… that hip-hop represents a triumphant commodification of subversive messages coming not from authentic artists or considered experience but strictly from commercial media?”

    I haven’t read any Ellison since 7th grade and could not then properly grasp the excerpts in a class with one black student. That said, I would only ask for some parameters to gauge questions like the one above. It is the only one I can address without preparation. When would Ellison’s definition of hip hop or any cultural export as “authentic art” (such a loathesome elitist term in the first place) change? When It went from the creative lab experimentation of a DJ and MC’s bedroom to the public dance floor? When it sold it’s first single? When a Puerto Rican break dancer joined in? When it crossed New York state lines? When it went on the radio? When it sold _____ million copies? 20 years later?

    “whites busy escaping blackness and becoming blacker every day, and the blacks striving toward whiteness, becoming quite dull and gray.”

    how should someone respond to their 12 year old niece who, upon browsing an iPod’s musical contents, asked “when did you become so white?” Is the black iPod owner “dull and gray” or the 12 year old too self containingly black?

  • rc21

    allison,excellent. I think you hit he nail on the head.

  • UtahOwl

    Does anyone else see the parallels between Ralph Ellison and Clarence Thomas? Both men were severely scarred by the early loss of a father and the consequent social “fall” of their mother & themselves. IMHO, the personalities of both men were formed by the terrible dissonance between their position in society as children and their pride, intellect and drive, which drove them to strive for the top. I don’t think either one ever got over deep feelings of injustice, that they had to expend so much effort to scale obstacles that weren’t even there for other men. Neither one seems to have had any empathy for their mothers, either, except to blame them in some sense for not providing them with a better start.

  • UtahOwl

    ..and to continue the parallel — Couldn’t Phyllis Rose’s analysis of the Ellison of Rampersad’s biography be applied equally to Justice Thomas:

    He had a way of describing people whose values and talents were different from his own as ‘mediocre’ and seeing himself as objectively better. He had earned what he had gotten by effort and merit. Others wanted to be given what they didn’t deserve. The beneficiary of incredible luck and historical political momentum, he acted as though he was uniquely qualified for all the honors showered upon him. His scorn for ordinary black culture and black people may have served him well as a younger man, energizing his achievements, but it didn’t serve him well in later life, making him harsh and judgmental, leading him to exhibit an unbecoming absence of sympathy, and perhaps crippling his own imagination.

  • hurley

    This show called right from beginning to end, when Chris suggested we’d all be scurrying back to Invisible Man. I have my resitances to it, but happy for the opportunity to reconsider them served up on a plate. Rampersad one of the more thoughtful and articulate people I’ve heard in a while.

  • nother

    KATRINA – The black victims in the Super Dome were invisible, not just because they were left there, but because all news reports about the tragedy refer to them as a whole…as a large black group. There were very few in-depth reports about specific individuals who suffered.

    HIP HOP – Chris asked the question about Hip-hop’s Folk-based authenticity- The genesis of rap/hip-hop was in the black ghettos; aren’t those ghettos the modern day fields of oppression? And if they are, couldn’t the music that stems from the blight be cosidered “folk?” And Isn’t too early to tell whether any of it will be considered “high art” in the future. Do ya think that Charlie Parker ever thought he would be mentioned on the level of Mozart?

    BARACK OBAMA – The gleam of hope that has energized me about Obama’s prospects was abruptly tempered upon finishing “Invisible Man.” I’m still on board Obama’s boat, but now I move with some trepidation; I wonder more about illusions…ours and his, and I fear for his safety.

  • nother

    Was the “Invisible Man” a love letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson? I think Ellison endeavored to write a fictional take of “Self Reliance” – as seen through the eyes of a black man in America.

    The invisible man only finds salvation when he is underground, in the invisibility of solitude. But, in the end, he announces he’s coming back from solitude:

    “I’ve overstayed my hibernation, since there’s a possibility that even an invisible man has a socially responsible role to play.”

    (That’s a very similar sentiment to Emerson’s line)

    “The great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

    The invisible man only finds hope and salvation in one thing, the “principle.” The principle his grandfather (a slave) believed in and that our country was founded on.

    “He accepted his humanity just as he accepted the principle. It was his, and the principle lives on in all its human and absurd diversity.”

    (Of course Emerson ends his essay)

    “Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”

    (And there is more)

    On the last page of the book, the invisible man who had fallen into a long sleep – wakes up and announces, “I am whole.

    Emerson writes that man “now and then wakes up, exercises his reason and finds himself a true prince.”

    Ellison makes a point of not telling us the invisible man’s name, but he also makes a point writing how important the fake name was to the Brotherhood (the communist) and to the people.

    Emerson writes, “The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

    Ellison ends his book with the words, “I speak for you.” I take that as him talking to me as well…not just black people. He is telling us all to be self-reliant.

  • nother

    After reading “Invisible Man,” I will no longer come across a black man. I will encounter a man…who is black.

  • rc21

    Maybe you will just encounter a man.

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