Term Paper: Ralph Ellison Is as Celebrated

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[. . .] He believed that the struggles that many black writers and activists spoke of included, yet went beyond the black battle for justice. Ellison saw that the struggle is a "fight over defining and improvising reality, and as such includes matters intellectual and aesthetic as well as political and economic" (Thomas pg). Ellison believed writers had a moral obligation. He once said, "Writers who are supposed to present visions of the human condition which will lead to some sort of wisdom in confronting existence or experience and who do not do that in a disciplined and informed way are immoral" (Thomas pg).

Ellison believed that the traditions and lifestyles of the American blacks were more than mere tales of woe, but rather an important part of the American struggle to realize its democratic principles (Thomas pg).

To his critics, Ellison once said, "Instead I felt it important to explore the full range of American Negro humanity and to affirm those qualities which are of value beyond any question of segregation, economics or previous condition of servitude" (Thomas pg). This is not to say that race was not important to Ellison, it is simply that he placed more value on culture than race (Thomas pg).

Invisible Man" is more than an impressive piece of fiction, it has taught two generations, both black and white, how to think for themselves, how to think about who they really are. In an age where self-help books clog the shelves of bookstores, Ellison's book is one of survival regardless of race, religion or gender (Corliss 90). He celebrated as much as he denounced his birth land. He saw the world in multicolor, for Ellison, America was more than a jungle of violence, it was vibrantly alive with multi-cultures and emotions (Corliss 90). Ellison once said that he wrote from an American Negro tradition which teaches one to deflect racial provocation and to master and contain pain. It is a tradition which abhors as obscene any trading on one's own anguish for gain and sympathy, which springs not from a desire to deny the harshness of existence but from a will to deal with it as men at their best have always done" (Corliss 90).

Ellison sought for others to see the best in themselves and their environment, without dismissing the reality of suffering. He wanted to inspire heroes, not militants (Corliss 90).

Many criticized Ellison for not being a spokesman for the black issues. However, "Ellison belonged to the Committee of One Hundred, an arm of the legal defense committee of the NAACP" (). Moreover, he served nine years on the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television, findings that led to the formation of public television, served as a charter member of the National Council of the Arts, and in 1966, he served as a witness at a Senate subcommittee hearing on urban issues (Thomas pg).

In 1970, he became Professor of the Humanities at New York University and lectured extensively on black folk culture (Gayle pg).

Ralph Ellison died in 1994 at the age of 80. Until his death he still "rejected anti-establishment activism to the point of still calling himself a 'Negro' (Bark 1C). Moreover, he still criticized the black nationalists for "suppressing artistry at the expense of politics" (Bark 1C).

The universality of Ellison's writings has influenced writers as diverse as Toni Morrison Kurt Vonnegut (Seidlitz pg).

Invisible Man" won the 1953 National Book Award for fiction and has been translated into seventeen languages, and has never been out of print. For fifty years, Ellison's novel has spoke so eloquent to so many that in 1999, "Invisible Man" was placed in the top 20 list of the most influential fiction from the 20th century (Thomas pg).

Should Ralph Ellison should be included in the literary canon? Regarded by scholars and peers, alike, as one of the most best writers of the century, how can he not be included?

Works Cited

Bark, Ed. "Ellison's legacy still alive." The Dallas Morning News. February 19, 2002; pp


Corliss, Richard. "Obituary: Invincible Man Ralph Ellison 1914-1994." Time. April 25

1994; pp 90.

Gayle, Addison. "Ralph Ellison (1914-1994)." http://www.levity.com/corduroy/ellison.htm.(accessed 01-31-2003).

Seidlitz, Anne. "Ralph Ellison." PBS.com http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/ellison_r.html.(accessed 01-31-2003).

Thomas, Greg. "Invisible Man' at 50: African-American intellectuals are still criticizing

Ralph Ellison for his refusal to make art serve politics. And they're still wrong." May 7, 2002. http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2002/05/07/ellison/index1.html accessed 01-31-2003). [END OF PREVIEW]

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