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This is a contributing entry for Ralph Ellison and African American History in Oklahoma City and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.

Ralph Ellison began his formal education when he was enrolled in the first grade at Douglass School. This former all-white separate school (known as Webster School, 1898-1903) became the segregated Douglass School in 1903 and served all grades from first to eighth. In 1935 the name was changed to Wheatley School when Douglass moved to 600 block of N High in 1935.

Douglass School

Sky, Building, Branch, Tree

Frederick Douglass School provided Ralph Ellison a first-class education, accomplished through the character of its founder and principal, Dr. Inman Page, the first Black man to graduate from Brown University, and the quality of its music program director, Zelia Breaux, in every way a mentor to Ellison in his years at the school. Years later, he would explain proudly, “I am indeed a product of the Oklahoma City school system. And except for third grade, when I studied at the old Orchard Park School on Peach Street (now Brauer) and the seventh which found us living in McAlester, Oklahoma, I was a pupil at the old Douglass High School, located then at Walnut and California. The last time I was at home the building was being used as a warehouse by the Board of Education, but I began there in the first grade; played in, and was student director, of the band, and a member of the varsity football team, then known as the ‘Red Machine’; and it was from there, in 1931, that I graduated.”

Callahan, John F.. Conner, Marc C.. The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison. New York City, New York. Random House, 2019.

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