Ellison, Ralph

Ellison, Ralph

Ellison, Ralph (Ralph Waldo Ellison), 1914–94, African-American author, b. Oklahoma City, studied Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee Univ.). Originally a trumpet player and aspiring composer, he moved (1936) to New York City, where he met Langston Hughes, who became his mentor, and became friends with Richard Wright, who radicalized his thinking. Ellison's earliest published writings were reviews and stories in the politically radical New Masses magazine. His literary reputation rests almost completely on one novel, Invisible Man (1952, National Book Award). A classic of American literature, it draws upon the author's experiences to detail the harrowing progress of a nameless young black man struggling to live in a hostile society. Ellison also published two collections of essays, Shadow and Act (1964) and Going to the Territory (1986). His collected essays were published in 1995, and a volume of stories appeared in 1996. Ellison struggled with the writing of a second novel, sections of which appeared (1960–77) in magazines, leaving it uncompleted at his death; his literary executor assembled Juneteenth (1999) from four decades of text and notes.


See his jazz writings ed. by R. G. O'Meally (2001); selected letters ed. by J. F. Callahan and M. C. Conner (2019); biographies by L. Jackson (2002) and A. Rampersad (2007); studies by J. Hersey, ed. (1974), R. G. O'Meally (1980), A. Nadel (1988), M. Busby (1991), E. Schor (1993), J. G. Watts (1995), H. Bytkerm, ed., (2000), H. Bloom, ed. (2003), K. W. Warren (2003), S. C. Tracy, ed. (2004), J. S. Wright (2006), and A. Bradley (2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Ellison, Ralph (Waldo)

(1914–94) writer; born in Oklahoma City, Okla. He studied music at Tuskegee Institute before moving to New York City to study sculpture. A protégé of Richard Wright, whom he met in 1937, he wrote reviews, essays, and short stories. He spent seven years writing Invisible Man (1952, National Book Award), and although it was his only novel it gained him a place as a respected American writer and remains one of the central texts of the African-American experience. His other major work, Shadow and Act (1964), is a collection of his essays and interviews. After teaching at various universities, he became the Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities at New York University (1970–79). He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
Mentioned in ?
References in periodicals archive ?
Ellison, Ralph. "The World and the Jug." Shadow and Act.
Ellison, Ralph. The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison.
Ellison, Ralph. "Hidden Name and Complex Fate: A Writer's Experience in the U.S." In The Writer's Experience: Ralph Ellison and Karl Shapiro.
If Warren's work represents the grand style in political readings of Ellison, Ralph Ellison and the Raft of Hope, edited by Lucas E.
Ellison, Ralph, William Styron, Robert Penn Warren, and C.
Ellison, Ralph. "An American Dilemma: A Review." 1944.