I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids -- and I might even be said to possess a mind. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination -- indeed, everything and anything except me.
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, 1952
In Ralph Ellison's much acclaimed, Invisible Man, the character, a black male known as the "Invisible Man," comes across a piece of "early African- American Americana" -- a "jolly nigger bank" -- and sees this grotesque caricature with its coal black skin, ruby red lips, and milky white eyes staring up at him from the floor. He holds much contempt for the object and even more for his landlady for keeping such an image around. The "Invisible Man" breaks the bank into small pieces and attempts to dispose of it in his neighbor's trash can, but is circumvented from doing so by his neighbor. He then tries to leave the pieces very casually along the street, but a good samaritan returns the bundle to him. In the end, he is unable to discard the broken bank and resorts to carrying the pieces with him into his underground hiding place.
The "Invisible Man's" attempt to rid himself of this nuisance is symbolic of the attempt of Negroes, Blacks, Afro-Americans, and African-Americans
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Publication information: Book title: Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and Rastus:Blacks in Advertising, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. Contributors: Marilyn Kern-Foxworth - Author. Publisher: Praeger. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1994. Page number: 115.
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