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Guerrero 4

a similar fashion, stating, “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” (“President

Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Decision”) when a violent demonstration towards the desegregation of

Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas broke out. Violent outbreaks based soley on race

were not unusual; the Detroit race riots, sparked on Belle Isle between a group of African

American and group of whites dragged on for three days. By the time President Franklin D.

Roosevelt called in the National Guard to intervene, thirty-four had been killed, and over seven

hundred injured. That same year, the Harlem Riot of 1943 started when a white policeman shot

a black military solider who had physically assaulted him. The riot led to five deaths, over three

hundred injuries, and five million dollars in damage (Bondi 345). Over a hundred more violent

uprising broke out, and Americans, once-avid “I Love Lucy” fans, turned on their television sets

and tuned in to witness American citizens tear their nation apart.

Ellison’s invisible man not only witnesses violent outbreaks similar to the riots of 1943

he also participates in similar feats. Readers catch their first glimpse of violence in the prologue

of Invisible Man, when the narrator begins to savagely beat a white man. The narrator continues

to beat the man until he realizes his “attacker” had simply been sleepwalking (Ellison 4-5). The

narrator, though shocked by his discover, simply leaves his victim on the street and continues

about his own business, leaving no trace of his relation to the bruised and battered man. The

invisible man never even suffers the consequences for his offense; he is simply able to walk

away unscathed and unpunished, for nobody ever discovers he is responsible for the crime

(hence his title as “invisible”). The narrator faces even more violence when he is forced to

participate in a Battle Royale amongst several other black men: “A glove landed in my mid-

section and I went over again, feeling as though the smoke had become a knife jabbed into my

guts” (23). The protagonist is brought down to the same level of significance as a mere child’s

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