Wednesday, May 04, 2022

The "sho 'nough race riot" in Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man"

The unnamed narrator of Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" (1952) witnesses the police shooting of his former fellow activist Tod Clifton: "And somewhere between the dull roar of traffic and the subway vibrating underground I heard rapid explosions and saw [...] Clifton still facing the cop and suddenly crumpling." After the narrator speaks at Clifton's funeral, unrest spreads in Harlem, and he falls in with a group wandering the streets and commenting on what's happening: "If it become a sho 'nough race riot I want to be here where there'll be some fighting back." This fictional police shooting of an unarmed black man takes place in the middle of the twentieth century. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 4 May 2022)

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