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 HughesHughes, Langston
(James Langston Hughes), 1902–67, American poet and central figure of the Harlem Renaissance, b. Joplin, Mo., grad. Lincoln Univ., 1929. He worked at a variety of jobs and lived in several countries, including Mexico and France, before Vachel Lindsay
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, who became his mentor, and became friends with Richard WrightWright, Richard,
1908–60, American author. An African American born on a Mississippi plantation, Wright struggled through a difficult childhood and worked to educate himself.
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, 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). 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. For many years Ellison struggled with the writing of a second novel, sections of which appeared (1960–77) in magazines, but it was still uncompleted at his death. Condensing the sprawling mass of text and notes written over four decades, his literary executor assembled the novel Juneteenth, which was published in 1999.

Bibliography

See R. G. O'Meally, ed., Living with Music: Ralph Ellison's Jazz Writings (2001); 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).

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.
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