Ralph Ellison Quotes

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The moment I entered the bright, buzzing lobby of Men's House I was overcome by a sense of alienation and hostility ... The lobby was the meeting place for various groups still caught up in the illusions that had just been boomeranged out of my head: college boys working to return to school down South; older advocates of racial progress with utopian schemes for building black business empires; preachers ordained by no authority except their own, without church or congregation, without bread or wine, body or blood; the community 'leaders' without followers; old men of sixty or more still caught up in post-Civil War dreams of freedom within segregation; the pathetic ones who possessed noting beyond their dreams of being gentlemen, who held small jobs or drew small pensions, and all pretending to be engaged in some vast, though obscure, enterprise, who affected the pseudo-courtly manners of certain southern congressmen and bowed and nodded as they passed like senile old roosters in a barnyard; they younger crowd for whom I now felt a contempt such as only a disillusioned dreamer feels for those still unaware that they dream-the business students from southern colleges, for whom business was a vague, abstract game with rules as obsolete as Noah's Ark but who yet were drunk on finance.

-Ralph Ellison


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