Ralph Ellison’s ‘Invisible Man’ banned in North Carolina

Share via

Ralph Ellison’s novel “Invisible Man” has been banned from school libraries in Randolph County, N.C. The book is considered by many to be an masterful novel dealing with race in America.

“I didn’t find any literary value,” said school board member Gary Mason before the board voted 5-2 to ban the book.

Ellison’s “Invisible Man” won the National Book Award in 1953. In 1965, a national poll of book critics deemed it the greatest American novel written since World War II.


The book was brought before the board by a parent who lodged a 12-page complaint, Asheboro’s Courier-Tribune reports. She found the book’s contents inappropriate for her child, an 11th grader, citing its lack of innocence, its language and sexual content.

High school juniors were asked to read a book over the summer (honors students were to read two). They were given three choices: Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” “Black Like Me” by John Howard Griffin, and “Passing” by Nella Larsen. All three books deal with race and identity.

“Invisible Man” is the story of an unnamed narrator whose bright future is erased by racism, told in confession form, frankly using the language of the period in which it was written. “I am an invisible man,” the novel begins. “No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe....”

Randolph County, south of Greensboro, is home to about 130,000 people. Though its students will no longer be able to find “Invisible Man” in their school libraries, the book remains on the state Department of Public Instruction’s list of suggested supplemental works for high school students.


The National Book Awards announces 2013 fiction longlist


James Patterson to give $1 million to independent bookstores

Man shot in heated debate -- about philosopher Immanuel Kant

Carolyn Kellogg: Join me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+