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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.

When the public library segregated in 1921, a branch library was opened in a storefront in the newly constructed Slaughter Building. Ralph later wrote that the library became a sanctuary where he could access his fullest emotional range. The building was also home to Randolph Drugs and Ralph made deliveries for the pharmacist after school in his teen years and would sometimes do office work for dentist Dr. T. J. Randolph.

The Slaughter Building

Building, Wheel, Tire, Car

Home to various entities during its lifetime, the Slaughter Building was owned by Dr. Wyatt Slaughter, the physician who delivered Ralph Ellison. Married to Edna Randolph, one of Ida Ellison’s closest friends, Dr. Slaughter rode the eastside Oklahoma city wave of Black affluence through buying property like this one, which included the segregated branch library, Randolph Drugs, and Slaughter Hall. The Slaughter Building held many memories for Ellison.

For Randolph Drugs, a teen-aged Ellison made deliveries for the pharmacist after school and would sometimes do office work for dentist Dr. T. J. Randolph.

Of the library, Ellison explained, “...when a segregated library branch was set up in our community, Tracy [McCleary] and his brother Willard and I ran through the so-called boys’ books, westerns and detective stories in a rapid sweep and were soon devouring such adult books as we could get down. I read my first Freud, A.A. Brill’s translation of The Psychology of Dreams that I by no means understood–during that exciting period”

Of Slaughter Hall, his memories would be equally eloquent: "'Listen, they're raising hell down at Slaughter Hall,’ and we’d turn our heads westward to hear Jimmy’s [Rushing’s] voice soar up the hill and down, as pure and as miraculously unhindered by distance and earthbound things as is the body in youthful dreams of flying. ‘Now, that’s the Right Reverend Jimmy Rushing preaching now, man,' someone would say. ‘Yeah, and that’s old Elder Hot Lips signifying along with him, urging him on, man.’ And keeping it building, ‘Huh, but thought you can hear him out this far, Ole Deacon Big-un [the late Walter Page] is up there patting his foot and slapping on his big belly [the bass viol] to keep those fools in line.’"

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

Ralph, Ellison. Going to the Territory. New York City, New York. Vintage, 1986.

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