by Ralph Ellison
African American History Month is a website combining information from the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Museum, and others. Great starting place. For Teachers section links to activities on multiple sites. Provides an excellent African American History Timeline.
Black Past is a website dedicated to “providing a global audience with reliable and accurate information.” Includes some fascinating wold-view articles, as well as lesser known pieces by significant figures.
Encyclopedia Britannica public access materials provide a good starting point.
Smithsonian Museum of African Art could be listed elsewhere, but its graphic resources are especially appropriate for use as historical references as well.
American Slave Narratives: An Online Anthology from the University of Virginia includes photographs and sound files. There are ony thirteen, but they are compelling.
Documenting the American South offers a broad collection of more than 300 slave narratives. Several analytic essays are useful, especially one discussing the religious content of such narratives. Illustrations are also included.
Harlem 1900-1940 An African-American Community, presented by the Schomburg Exhibition, has links to short biographies of anyone who was anyone, teacher resources, great contemporary photographs, and directions for Reading a Photograph.
African-American Studies Video Resources is an extensive annotated bibliography of available films, provided by the University of California at Berkeley. Includes some film clips.
Black Film Center is dedicated to film by and about black artists and black culture. Has some film clips in its archives and extensive links.
The Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman has a controversial history and images.
The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow is an interactive PBS website about the system of government-sanctioned racial oppression and segregation. Includes a map and several student role-playing activities.
Musarium: Without Sanctuary is a stunning and shocking website dedicated to the images from the book and traveling photographic exhibit of the same name. Be forewarned, not for the squeamish.
What Is the Blues? from the PBS Blues series attempts to define the term, providing examples and lesson plans in the Blues Classroom.
More in-depth lessons that include other resources and extensive links are available at Learning the Blues, by EDSITEMent.
You would not want to miss NPR Morning Editions 12-part series Honky Tonks, Hymns, and the Blues -- a detailed history with complete programs, music clips, and supplemental CDs.
Strange Fruit focuses on the famous Billie Holiday song which is certainly implied in Invisible Man. Further discussion of protest music as a genre. Includes a sound clip and lyrics.
Ralph Ellison Project at Jerry Jazz Musician
The Music in Poetry -- a 16-page Smithsonian guide to Langston Hughes focuses on basic poetry, the ballad, and the blues. Search for audio files at the Folkways site cited in the guide.
Extensive background for a Blues Song Assignment, with accompanying Blues Lyrics. If your students are writing original blues, they will appreciate this excerpt from The Babysitting Blues. (My all-time student favorite -- “I Just Went to the Orthodontist and My Teeth Hurt Blues.”)
“How to Sing the Blues” by Lame Mango Washington -- Silly
Lifting the Veil of Ignorance by Charles Keck -- Statue of Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee Institute
After Invisible Man the Prologue by Jeff Wall --Photograph based on a staged piece based on the Prologue.
The Problem We All Live With by Norman Rockwell -- appeared in Look magazine in 1964.
Harlem Renaissance -- Black artists whose work seems especially appropriate and useful include Romare Bearden, Aaron Douglas, Palmer Hayden, William H. Johnson, Loïs Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Augusta Savage, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.
The National Portrait Gallery’s Struggle for Justice exhibition showcases 28 exceptional portraits of civil rights champions. Offers access to handouts for portraiture analysis, a YouTube Playlist focusing on specific skills and subjects. Teacher Guide. Reference Sheets. Worksheets.
Kadir Nelson’s “Say Their Names” New Yorker cover for 22 June 2020. Interactive image. Full-size image.
“Nearly 70 Years Later, Invisible Man Is Still Inspiring Visual Artists” by Nicole Rudick presents over a dozen artworks influenced by the novel.
Don’t know how; don’t know why -- Large .PDF file, nearly 2MG. Full searchable text of the novel. [?]
The Tulsa Public Library African-American Resource Center thoroughly explores Oklahomas historical black towns, the Greenwood Riot of 1921, state growth of blues and jazz, etc.
Death in the Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 by Scott Ellsworth includes a lengthy narrative, interviews, and photographs.
Tulsa Historical Society and Museum offers a substantial curriculum guide on the Tulsa Race Riots.
Tulsa Reparations Coalition includes survivor oral history, reparations commission reports, and bibliography. Full report from the Oklahoma Commission to study the Tulsa Race Riot is available from the Oklahoma Historical Society.
The Second Destruction of a Black Community in Tulsa from The Nation focuses on the current state as urban renewal threatens the community again. Original 1921 Nation Article Reprinted.
“75 Years Later, Tulsa Confronts Its Race Riot” from the New York Times discusses the Tulsa Reparation Coalition and its efforts.
The Night That Tulsa Burned -- This In Search of History video can be ordered through Amazon. YouTube has clips from Tulsa television shows on the Tulsa riots.
Tulsa Race Massacre --The HistoryChannel updates and expands earlier coverage in anticipation of their upcoming production of Tulsa Burning, expected Spring 2021.
African American History and Culture in Oklahoma is intriguing even for non-Okies since Ellison is from Oklahoma and references our history. Excellent graphic resources.
Useful YouTube Videos
HBO Series Watchmen highlights 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre -- Local KOCO TV Coverage and Washington Post Overview.
Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial -- University of Oklahoma documentary, “From Tragedy to Triumph.”
Song of the South -- According to urban legend, this 1936 Disney mixed media film based on Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus stories has never been released in the United States, supposedly because of opposition by the NAACP. Get the story here. Trailer.
Mules and Men -- Zorah Neale Hurstons insightful collection of African-American folktales and hoodoo stories. Though she is better known for Their Eyes Were Watching God, this anthropological study reflects her field research. And, yes, Hurston includes some Br’er Rabbit stories that appear in Song of the South. eNotes.
Oratory: Men of Words
Douglass National Site
Booker T. Washington
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Resources
• Time Magazine Recommendations
Malcolm X -- Ras the Exhorter
Black Media Archive provides more than 200 free audio and video resources -- speeches, interviews, archival video, movies, music, and more. Remarkable.
An Essay on a Wickedly Powerful Word by Keith Woods -- An essay by a black journalist on word choice and its effects. Worth checking other articles from the Poynter Institute, a journalism school with a focused ethnic awareness.
Teaching the N-Word at American Scholar discusses classroom issues with racial langage.
“Good Teachers Use the N-Word” from The Hechinger Report contends that the teerm is so ubiquitous that
“Racially Charged Words: The Impact of Offensive Slurs on Our Culture” from CNN (19 July 2017).
Saturday Night Live “Word Association” (13 December 1975). Language warning.
Random House Teacher Guide
Williamette University Study Questions
Discussion Questions -- culminating whole book.
PBS American Masters: Ralph Ellison
New York Times Featured Author: Ralph Ellison offers extensive interviews, reviews, even an obituary. Free, but requires registration. Be sure to check the Roger Rosenblatt homage.
In this History Channel clip On the Origins of Invisible Man, Ellison speaks specifically about the influence of current events and his reading of Lord Raglans The Hero.
“Going to the Territory: Ralph Ellison Goes Home” by Jervis Anderson chonicles Ellion return to Oklahoma City, New Yorker, 22 November 1976
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers Project, 1936-1940. Search by Ralph Ellison and youll actually come up with some of the intervuews he personally recorded as a young man in New York City. My favorite is called Harlem.
In 1953, as the first black author to win a National Book award, Ellison comments: If I were asked in all seriousness just what I considered to be the chief significance of Invisible Man as a fiction, I would reply: Its experimental attitude and its attempt to return to the mood of personal moral responsibility for democracy which typified the best of our nineteenth-century fiction. In a rare 1966 PBS interview, Ellison reflects again.
Trailer for King of the Bingo Game PBS Video on YouTube.
Best Handouts -- Most are in PDF format, but a few are also in Word document format so you can edit.
Note to Teachers On Teaching Invisible Man.
Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez works well with Invisible Man as an accompanying text. Regardless, historical background resources and music activities may also be useful with this novel. (See my webpage for the play).
Crash Course Literature: View and take notes on John Green’s commentary on Invisible Man.
Saul Bellow, Man Underground, Commentary 1952. (Review of Invisible Man).
Irving Howe, Black Boys and Native Sons, The Nation, May 10, 1952 (essay about Wright, Baldwin, and Ellison).
Wright Morris, A Tale From Underground, New York Times, April 13, 1952 (Review of Invisible Man).
Robert Abrams, The Ambiguities of Dreaming in Ellisons Invisible Man.
John Corry, Profile of an American Novelist, A White View of Ralph Ellison.
Lena M. Hill, “The Visual Art of Invisible Man: Ellison’s Portrait of Blackness.”
Ernest Kaiser, A Critical Look at Ellisons Fiction & at Social & Literary Criticism by and about the Author.
Yvonne Fonteneau, Ralph Ellisons Invisible Man: A Critical Reevaluation.
Marjorie Fryse, Ralph Ellisons Heroic Fugitive.
Jane Gottschalk, Sophisticated Jokes: The Use of American Authors in Invisible Man.
Christopher Hanlon, Eloquence and Invisible Man.
Lena J. Hill, The Visual Art of Invisible Man: Ellisons Portrait of Blackness.
Jim Neighbors, Plunging (outside of) History: Naming and Self-Possession in Invisible Man.
Stuart Noble-Goodman, Mythic Guilt and the Burden of Sin in Ellisons Invisible Man.
Robert O’Meally, Invisible Man and the Blues.
Christopher Shinn, Masquerade, Magic, and Carnival in Ralph Ellisons Invisible Man.
Robert Stepto, From Behind the Veil: A Study of Afro-American Narrative (Excerpt). Apply this analysis of slave narratives to the novel.
Julia Sun-Joo Lee, Knucklebones and Knocking-bones: The Accidental Trickster in Ralph Ellisons Invisible Man.
Applied Practice offers its usual excellent resource -- 90 MC questions over 12 passages and 6 open response essays. As always, the explanations for correct answers are pricelesss. (Sample)
Course Hero offers a Study Guide and an Infographic. Best way to print the infographic is to print as a poster from the large .PDF file. The site just added a video lecture on EVERY SINGLE CHAPTER in the book. Free; yes, free.
Gale Group Novels for Students presents 21 pages of in-depth background and analysis.
Great Books discussion group presents the familiar open-ended questions that provoke discussion. These work well for Socratic seminars.
LitCharts offers both a student and a teacher unit.
Prestwick House has many-paged multiple materials on the novel -- a regular English unit, (Sample), an AP Unit (Sample), a response journal packet (Sample), an activity pack (Sample), and a multiple critical perspectives unit (Sample).
Invisible Man CD
Special thanks to Daniel Pogebra for “stuffing” all the necessary music files to accompany the novel. Wonderful writing oppportunities, great background music for class reading or working, or entertainment for a Jazz Party at the end of your study. Huge .zip file (90 MG) requires free Stuffit Expander.
PBS American Masters Ralph Ellison: An American Journey
PBS Website offers twelve short videos -- Each includes Teaching Tips and short Discussion Questions. Some enact scenes from the novel. Some have background handouts. All can be downloaded. Links below go to the actual videos. Excellent resource.
Advanced Placement Free Response Prompts have mentioned Invisible Man more times than any other novel -- specifically 29 times --1976, 1977, 1978, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2022.
Student PowerPoints on Motif Strands --
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Updated 18 November 2022.