How desperately we need Ellison’s wisdom now.
Juneteenth is Ralph Ellison‘s second novel, published posthumously in 1999 as a 368-page condensation of over 2000 pages written by him over a period of forty years. It was originally written without any real organization, and Ellison’s longtime friend, biographer and critic John F. Callahan put the novel together, editing it in the way he thought Ellison would want it to be written.
“Ellison’s literary executor, John Callahan, has now quarried a smaller, more coherent work from all that raw material. Gone are the epic proportions that Ellison so clearly envisioned. Instead, Juneteenth revolves around just two characters: Adam Sunraider, a white, race-baiting New England senator, and Alonzo “Daddy” Hickman, a black Baptist minister who turns out to have a paradoxical (and paternal) relationship to his opposite number. As the book opens, Sunraider is delivering a typically bigoted peroration on the Senate floor when he’s peppered by an assassin’s bullets. Mortally wounded, he summons the elderly Hickman to his bedside. There the two commence a journey into their shared past, which (unlike the rest of 1950s America) represents a true model of racial integration.”