"I never desire to converse with a man who has
written more than he has read."
The late Louis Lomax, columnist and television personality, had delivered a lecture at Ferris State College, Michigan, when there arose in the audience a large, militant, black activist. "Lomax," said this challenger, grimly, "do you call yourself black?"
"Do you want that with a small b or a capital B?" Lomax inquired, shaking his head.
"Well, Lomax, do you call yourself Afro-American?"
"Then do you call yourself Negro?"
"You mean you call yourself colored?"
"Then what do you call yourself?"
Mr. Ralph Ellison, although for the most part he writes about the Negro (the term he employs), also does not need to be classified according to pigmentation or ideological fad: He stands in his own right as a man of letters. A gentleman of presence, he is one of the more temperate and tolerant writers of our time, urbane and courageous. He wrote a first novel that presumably will be his last novel: Invisible Man (1952), at once realistic and fantastic, moving and convincing, the best American fiction of the past several...