- Purchase/rental options available:
This essay analyzes Ralph Ellison’s 1943 “Editorial Comment” from the Negro Quarterly. In the editorial, Ellison highlighted the shortcomings of black America’s attitudinal responses to World War II; as a corrective, he offered “critical participation,” which entailed supporting U.S. and Allied principles while remaining vigilant against white supremacy. I argue that Ellison’s editorial signified more than just a meditation on wartime political strategies; it also marked the articulation of black community. Through a close reading of Ellison’s editorial, I contend that the text grounded black community in the enactment of self-conscious doubleness. Ellison’s appeal to self-conscious doubleness contributed to African American intellectual culture in that it outlined an innovative way for navigating the constraints of “double consciousness.” Rather than regarding doubleness as indicative of a static identity, Ellison engaged it as a source of dynamic rhetorical possibility.