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Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Rev. Jim Wallis on “America’s Original Sin” and Ellison’s “Invisible Man”

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Image credit: Meta Stange / WDET

Eight minutes and 46 seconds became a time to talk about 401 years of America’s original sin,” says Rev. Jim Wallis on George Floyd’s murder sparking a movement.

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WDET’s Book Club is back for a third year, and this summer’s selection is Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” a formative work of the 20th century and winner of the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction in 1953. 

I have never heard the phrase ‘America’s Original Sin’ spoken more than I have in the last two months.” — Rev. Jim Wallis

Detroit Today’s Stephen Henderson and readers will discuss the novel weekly on-air and online in the WDET Book Club Facebook community. You can follow along by reading three to four chapters a week until the end of August. The novel’s examination of power, systemic racism and inequality has never felt more urgent or pertinent than it does today.

Listen: Reverend Jim Wallis on “America’s Original Sin” 


In this installment, we speak with Reverend Jim Wallis, the Founder, President, and Editor-In-Chief of Sojourners, and is the author of twelve books, including “America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America.”

Reverend Wallis says this moment and movement has brought into sharper focus America’s long history of systemic racism.

I have never heard the phrase ‘America’s Original Sin’ spoken more than I have in the last two months,” says Wallis of his book written in 2015.

Discussion Points

  • The murder of George Floyd, Wallis says, was more than just a moment, it brought with it the weight of a long and racist American history. “Every Black parent who say that white knee on that Black neck saw their children under that knee,” says Wallis. 
  • As the country mourns the loss of Congressman John Lewis, Reverend Wallis remembers Lewis’ call to keep fighting for justice even if the battles feel redundant. He says that Lewis talked about the significance of voting as an important non-violent tool. “I think John Lewis would be telling us to get into good trouble,” says Wallis. 
  • Wallis says the current movement against systemic racism and police brutality has laid bare longstanding issues that many white people have previously ignored and didn’t see. “What was invisible, as Ralph Ellison said so well, is becoming more visible,” says Wallis. 

Keep the Conversation Going

Respond on Facebook to this week’s prompt about Chapter 9: 

The narrator has been dealt a blow by the letters from Dr. Bledsoe. Emerson’s son tells the narrator the truth and says “there’s no point in blinding yourself to the truth” 

What do you think is the truth that the narrator was blind to before this revelation? 

Further Listening

White Rage” Author on Racial Justice and Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”

WDET Book Club: “Invisible Man,” Black Lives Matter and the Politics of Ralph Ellison

Author Colson Whitehead on “The Nickel Boys,” “Invisible Man,” and Racial Inequity

WDET Book Club: Author JM Holmes on “Invisible Man” and Identity

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Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.

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This post is a part of WDET Book Club.

Currently reading: "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison. Read the book and engage with us online, on the radio and at events throughout the region.

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