His birthplace was long ago torn down in the on rush of Urban Renewal, but one of America's stellar literary voices lives on in a very special and fitting way in northeast section of Oklahoma's capital city.

At the corner of NE 23 and Martin Luther King in Oklahoma City, is a library named for the late Ralph Ellison, author of the highly acclaimed Invisible Man, who was born in Oklahoma City in 1914 and grew up there.
He is shown here at a book signing reception held at the brand new Ralph Ellison Library when it opened in the early 1970's.

When the facility opened in 1975, the same year he was elected to the The American Academy of Arts and Letters , it was the finalization of the dreams of thousands in the Oklahoma City area and an expression of the rich heritage of the surrounding community. It quickly established itself as a center for African-American social history and a nexus for community development. It's 'Black Heritage Collection' became the popular research spot for historians, authors, and students from across the state and the nation.

To mark its unique spot in OKC history, the author Ralph Ellison graced the opening with his presence and was there to see the bronze bas relief of his profile and the display of copies of his award winning work in various international languages in a glass cabinet. He would, long after his death, continue to inspire youth and adults with his literary achievement.

As much as this library was, and still is, an information resource, it is also a strong center of community activities for all of the Northeast Oklahoma City community. They celebrate a history of providing strong children, youth, and career focused programming and resources. They celebrate the rich ethnic heritage of the area with cultural celebrations and resources that reflect the influence and role of African Americans in all of American history and especially in that of Oklahoma.

In 2025, the library will be 50 years old. It's past would have seen the living leaders of Civil Rights in Oklahoma City attend its birth, witnessed the finest of African-American artists, writers, painters, speakers, thinkers, academics, business leaders, politicians, musicians, storytellers, and actors grace it programs, attend its events, and learn from its resources, and see its mere existence inspire countless thousands as evidence of achievement once the human heart begins to dream.

Area residents formed the Friends of the Ralph Ellison Library. The special group sponsors fund-raising events and coordinates projects benefiting the library. For information about joining, call 405.424.1437. For more information on the Metropolitan Oklahoma City and County libraries visit their website at http://www.metrolibrary.org/.

[Marilyn A. Hudson served Ralph Ellison Library as Children-Teen programming librarian and as a reference librarian from 1999-2004. ]

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