Going to the TerritoryRalph Ellison
It should be a source of pride for Oklahomans that Ralph Ellison, author of Invisible Man, which is widely recognized as one of the greatest works of American literature ever written, was a native of our state. He was a graduate of Douglass High School where he was taught and mentored by Inman E. Page, the first African American graduate of Brown University.
Going to the Territory is a selection of essays which attempts to describe what it means to be an American. Ellison points out that the identity of most nations is based upon common geographical roots and shared race, ethnicity, religion, and culture. He writes, "The mystery which haunts the American experience is the mystery of how we are many and yet one." He explains that our identity as Americans is based upon our respect for diversity and our deep belief that each person should have the right and opportunity to create himself into the person he wants to become.
He sees America as the most democratic of all social organizations in which all of us enact our own roles by asserting our own values.
Ellison tells us that through personal courage we may escape the limited circumstances which confront us at birth to create our own destinies and possibilities.
From Books That Inspire 2007.