Today is Ralph Ellison’s birthday. Invisible Man is one of the great American novels. Also see Lucas Morel’s book on Ellison, the best on him, in my opinion. This is the PBS, American Master’s spot on Ellison. If you have read nothing of Ellison’s, read the very short story "In a Strange Country," in the volume Flying Home and Other Stories. Also see former Ashbrook Scholar Carolyn Garris’s thesis, Improvisation and Self-Emancipation in the Novels of Ralph Ellison. She got the Charles E. Parton Award for it in 2005. Happy Birthday Mr. Ellison!
"Whitman viewed the spoken idiom of Negro Americans as a source for a native grand opera. Its
flexibility, its musicality, its rhythms, freewheeling diction and metaphors, as projected in Negro
American folklore, were absorbed by the creators of our great nineteenth-century literature even
when the majority of blacks were still enslaved. Mark Twain celebrated it in the prose of
Huckleberry Finn; without the presence of blacks, the book could not have been written. No
Huck and Jim, no American novel as we know it. For not only is the black man a co-creator of
the language that Mark Twain raised to the level of literary eloquence, but Jim’s condition as
American and Huck’s commitment to freedom are the moral center of the novel." R.W.E.