ellison library oklahoma
© Author Adventures
ellison library interior oklahoma
© Author Adventures

The Ralph Ellison Library Honors Its Native Son

The Ralph Ellison Library in Oklahoma City honors its own Ralph Ellison (1914-1994), author of Invisible Man, which was published in 1952.

It is hard to imagine a time when African-Americans were not allowed to use public libraries, but it wasn’t that long ago. That changed for Ralph Ellison during his lifetime in his hometown, and it is what ultimately gave rise to one of the most respected writers of the 20th century. (GradeSaver. “Biography of Ralph Ellison | List of Works, Study Guides & Essays”. GradeSaver, 28 January 2014 Web. 28 January 2014.)

According to https://www.gradesaver.com/author/ralph-ellison: “A Black episcopal priest in the city challenged the white custom of barring Blacks from the public library and the custom was overturned. Ellison’s horizons were broadened to a world outside his own sheltered life in Oklahoma City, by the many books now available to him in the library.”

Currently, Oklahoma City has a population of approximately 644,000, which is more than twice the number of residents during Ellison’s day. The Ralph Ellison Library is located northeast of central Oklahoma City.

Invisible Man

You can find Ellison’s Invisible Man as a free ebook at www.gutenberg.org. This is an intense story recommended for high school students, college students, and adults.

“I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in a circus sideshow, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.” — Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

More on Segregation

Read more about segregation and see images from that time in history through the Library of Congress website at www.loc.gov.

The Ralph Ellison Library is the second stop on our Oklahoma Author Adventures Trail!

Patricia Smart