Reading, Writing, and Racism: Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and African American Literacy in Cold War America

Arts Building - Room 201
Monday 19 November 2018 (17:15-18:45)

African Americans have a unique relationship with literacy. Long denied by slavery and long seen as the path to freedom, literacy after WWII bore different implications for African Americans still bearing the weight of racial prejudice.

In this presentation, Kristin Matthews will discuss the ways in which African American educators, activists, and writers began to question the politics and ideology undergirding reading initiatives post-WWII and contested the ways in which those initiatives maintained a racial status quo. Specifically, she will discuss how Ralph Ellison’s award winning novel, Invisible Man, explores the relationship between reading and power, demonstrating how such power might be used to liberate or control and offering a mode of reading that allows for imagination and self-determination in Cold War America.