Of Use in Teaching Invisible Man


            No doubt whatsoever, Invisible Man is my favorite book to teach, and frequently the most challenging book I teach. An Oklahoma author makes it even more fun. I usually take almost the full third quarter to teach this novel, in conjunction with a massive poetry unit. Since this novel is the most frequently referenced title on the open question, it is a must. I also find that the activities in my Poem-a-Day unit do full justice to poetry heading toward the exam. Invisible Man reading for homework; poetry in class every day. Works for me.

            That said, over 45 years, I have found some resources especially helpful to me.

·      Some version of African and/or African-American folktales is vital.

o   Joel Chandler Harris tells many that are referenced in IM. Several editions are available on Amazon.

o   Julius Lester’s Black Folktales is imminently readable.

o   Zorah Neale Hurston offers a more thorough anthropological introduction to the lore in Mules and Men.

·      Song of the South, a 1946 Disney film, consists of animated sequences featuring Uncle Remus characters such as Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear, framed by live-action portions in which Uncle Remus (portrayed by actor James Baskett, who won a special Oscar for his efforts) tells the stories to a little white boy upset over his parents’ impending divorce. Snopes has investigated the film’s status. Though the film has not been released in its entirety in the United States, several clips are available on YouTube.


·      The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 is still as controversial as it was in the 50s. Originally newspaper texts have been clipped from state archives and very little “evidence” exists. Even so, there a few important resources.

o   Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 by Scott Ellsworth, who was a six-year-old child during the riot, remains the most authoritative and carefully researched text. Includes an amazing essay on his sources.

o   In Search of History: The Night Tulsa Burned  is the only video available.

o   Magic City by Jewell Parker Rhodes is a fictionalized tale set in Tulsa during the riot. Read with a grain of salt.

o   The riot figured prominently in the HBO series Watchmen. YouTube video.

o   Tulsa Public Schools has an informational video on YouTube.


·      Ralph Ellison: A Biography by Bob Burke and Denyvetta Davis is a home grown biography from the Oklahoma Heritage Association. Very readable, but also very hard to find.

·      Teacherly books are new to the field, but there are some good titles.

o   Approaches to Teaching Ellison’s Invisible Man, edited by Susan Parr and Pancho Savery, presents a list of resources, several approaches, and sample study materials. MLA Series.

o   Robert O’Meally has a remarkable book, The Craft of Ralph Ellison, a most insightful analysis of Ellison’s style.

o   Cultural Contexts for Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, edited by Eric Sundquist, provides context with articles that are worthy of reading in themselves. Bedford Documentary Companion.

o   Invisible Man: Race and Identity by Kerry McSweeney is a chapter-by-chapter analysis. Twayne Masterwork Series.