Ralph Ellison on the Harlem Riots of 1943

I have been reading Arnold Rampersad’s excellent biography of Ralph Ellison in preparation for my upcoming October seminar at the Glencoe Library on Invisible Man. Rampersad’s discussion of Ellison’s personal observations as a witness to the Harlem race riots in 1943 caught my attention in light of recent events in Chicago. The quotes from Ellison are from on article that appeared in the New York Post on August 3, 1943.
Rampersad writes that Ellison was stunned by the bizarre, even surrealistic juxtaposition of behaviors among the rioters. A crowd of looters paused long enough from their stealing to buy bottles of milk from a passing truck. One man disavowed being a member of the mob. He hadn’t stolen anything, he pointed out. ‘I just broke windows.’ A woman declared the event ‘a colored man’s New Year.’ A group of black boys put on blonde wigs, silk hats, and other formal wear ‘and danced in the streets.’ Toting stolen boxes of soap powder, a man explained truculently, ‘I gotta keep clean ain’t I?’….He witnessed attempts by law-abiding folks to console shop owners. Mainly, however, the dominant vision was of chaos.

Man Booker Shortlist Discussion at Glencoe Public Library

I hope that you will join me on Wednesday evening, September 27, at 7:30 at the Glencoe Public Library as I discuss the six novels that were selected for this year’s Man Booker Literary Prize Shortlist. The winner will be announced on October 17 at a ceremony in London. Here are the shortlisted novels:

4321 by Paul Auster
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Exit West by Moshin Hamid
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Autumn by Ali Smith

Course on James Joyce’s Ulysses at the Glencoe Library


The Glencoe Public Library is launching its new Big Books series this spring with James Joyce’s Ulysses. I have the distinct honor of being the instructor for the course. There will be nine evening sessions, on Thursdays from 7:00 to 8:30, starting on April 6th. The course is free, and open to all, though Glencoe residents have priority if the class fills up. If you are interested in registering, please call the library at 847-835-5056.