American contradiction of race and democracy with a theory meant to surpass the contradiction, a theory explaining the appearance of a synthetic democratic culture that acquires its requisite vigor from the Afro-American arts.
Let us, therefore, take Ralph Ellison at his word when he tells us that the significance of Shadow and Act is basically autobiographical, not because he tells us things that can interest us only because he is a famous writer, but because this autobiographer addresses the fundamental literary question: Why write? In the answer he gives, we find both the essential Ralph Ellison and his compelling democratic testament.
Allen James S. The Negro Question in America. New York: International, 1936.
Ellison Ralph. "The Essential Ellison." Interview by Ishmael Reed, Quincy Troupe, Steve Canon. Y'Bird Reader 1 (Autumn 1977): 126-59.
-----. "The Little Man at Chehaw Station: The American Artist and His Audience." American Scholar 47 (Winter 1977-78): 25-48.
-----. "The Novel as a Function of American Democracy." Wilson Library Bulletin ( June 1967): 1022-27.
-----. Shadow and Act. New York: Random House, 1964.
-----. "Study and Experience: An Interview with Ralph Ellison." With Michael S. Harper and Robert B. Stepto. Massachusetts Review 18 (Autumn 1977): 417-435.
O'Brien John, ed. Interviews with Ten Black Writers. New York: Liveright, 1973.
Stalin Joseph. Marxism and the National and Colonial Question. London: n.d. Also: San Francisco: Proletarian Pubs., 1975.
From Speaking for You: The Vision of Ralph Ellison, edited by Kimberly W. Benston. Howard University Press, 1987.