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"I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. 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."
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
"I don't allow anonymous people to give me a sense of my worth."
"We don't all dig Shakespeare uniformly, or even 'Little Red Riding Hood.' The understanding of art depends finally upon one's willingness to extend one's humanity and one's knowledge of human life."
"I recognize no dichotomy between art and protest. … One ironic witness to the beauty and the universality of this art is the fact that the descendants of the very men who enslaved us can now sing the spirituals and ﬁnd in the singing an exaltation of their own humanity. Just take a look at some of the slave songs, blues, folk ballads; their possibilities for the writer are infinitely suggestive. Some of them have named human situations so well that a whole corps of writers could not exhaust their universality."
"While Mr. Ellison speaks, he rarely pauses, and although the strain of organizing his thought is sometimes evident, his phraseology and the quiet, steady flow and development of ideas are overwhelming. To listen to him is rather like sitting in the back of a huge hall and feeling the lecturer's faraway eyes staring directly into your own. The highly emphatic, almost professorial intonations, startle with their distance, self-conﬁdence, and warm undertones of humor."
Alfred Chester & Vilma Howard
"Ralph Ellison is a writer who has combined social awareness, great artistry, and compassionate understanding. He has given his fellow citizens new insight into the plight of the American N****. He has inspired the white American not just to understand the black American's problems, but to stand up and fight to eliminate them. His vision of our Democracy has helped Americans to a new determination to bring equality to the lives of all our people."
Presidential Medal of Freedom