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Guest Scott F

Essay query

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Guest Scott F

I'm posting here in hopes that someone might recognize an essay I once read about 20 years ago; it was written much earlier, perhaps mid-20th century, and I think the author was a fairly well-known African American male writer. It recounts an event early in his life, before doing his own writing but perhaps was in college, when he worked going door-to-door in Harlem getting signatures for a petition. Before knocking on one door in a very poor neighborhood, he heard male voices inside debating the merits of various opera singers and performers, using very sophisticated aesthetic language. He was let in and after explaining his job, one of the men said that signing his petition would probably lead to no important changes, but they would do it for him as a personal favor. Before leaving, he asked how it was that he found them talking so fluently about high art, and they explained that they worked as extras for Aida, and so had picked up much experience and language for describing such things. The author was profoundly affected by this, which made him change some of his prior assumptions about race and class, for he thought that his own education had set him apart from so many other blacks, but he now realized that things were far more mixed-up and complicated than he imagined, and that this potential for jumbling up things was in some way the essence of the best of America.

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I'd like to read that essay! I'm currently researching autodidacts in general, and learning specifically. 

Two locations I can think off hand that might help your search http://www.blackpast.org

And the Library of Congress online - loc.gov  for example - I looked for essays on education and it brought me to this link https://www.loc.gov/search/?in=&q=essays+about+education&new=true&st=

When you find it, please post here.  Thank you.

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A bit more searching, and I found it! It was the last 5 pages of Ralph Ellison's "The Little Man at Chehaw Station." I'm not sure if I ever read the first 20 pages or so, so I'm looking forward to reading it all in context now. It turns out that Aida was not specifically mentioned, but otherwise the essay was much as I remembered it. It's a good one--enjoy!

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On 4/10/2017 at 10:45 PM, ScottEF said:

Ralph Ellison's "The Little Man at Chehaw Station."

Awesome!  I look forward to reading it.

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