The Inner Mind and Powerful Voice of a Visible Man

Charles Ellis

This is the story of an invisible man who lived at a time of invisible people.

Charles Everett Ellis was the only black man living in an all-white small town in Illinois town during a violent period of America’s history, just before the Great Depression.

It was a time when African Americans faced threats of racial cleansing across the South and Midwest.

Thousands were murdered, tortured and publicly executed. Property was stolen. Towns destroyed, communities eliminated, overnight.

For most black men, the way to survive in those times was to remain invisible and never speak out.

Step off the curb when white people approached, avoid eye contact, stay in your place, never show emotion, always keep your thoughts to yourself, and your mouth shut.

For Charles Ellis … he had a wife and seven children to protect. He had a home. But, keeping his thoughts to himself was not an option.

He was a valuable asset in the white community – he was the town barber. He cut the hair of white men, gave shaves with a straightedge razor, and listened to white men in his shop talk, sometimes of hatred and racism.

And, then, Ellis voiced hope, and the dreams for all black Americans, like himself, during that time of the contemporary American black experience. He took up pen and paper, and kept a secret diary. The Barber’s Diaries.

An extraordinary man, self-educated in the classics … his writing is a celebration of life that rises above the violence and challenges of the time. His words inspire and endure to this day.

For the next 44 years, Ellis expressed his thoughts, his philosophy, his theology, his politics – his world-view.

“The Barber’s Diaries.”

The inner mind … and the powerful voice … of a visible man.

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  1. wow!this is great!as a child i grew up around altamont/effingham. i had enough of the constant struggle to survive, i then moved to memphis tn.this is probely the best thing that ever happened to altamont, this man who had the courage to overcome overwhelming odds was a very powerful man!! thank you for sharing!

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