Murray, Albert Lee

Murray, Albert Lee,

1916–2013, American essayist, novelist, and critic, b. Nokomis, Ala., grad. Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee Univ.; B.S., 1939) and New York Univ. (M.A., 1948). Murray enlisted in the Army Air Corps (1943–45) during World War II, and later reenlisted (1951–62), retiring from the U.S. Air Force as a major. In the postwar period, Murray was among the black intelligentsia debating the role of African-American culture in American life and became good friends with Ralph EllisonEllison, 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
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 and Romare BeardenBearden, Romare
, 1911–88, American painter and collagist, b. Charlotte, N.C. Bearden grew up in Harlem and studied at New York Univ. and the Art Students League, New York City.
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. Murray insisted that integration, not black separatism, was necessary and inevitable, and that the black experience was already a vital part of American culture. The essays in his first book, The Omni-Americans: New Perspectives on Black Experience and American Culture (1970), argued against black nationalism. Among his other books are the nonfiction The Hero and the Blues (1973) and Stomping the Blues (1976), as well as a series of semiautobiographical novels, beginning with Train Whistle Guitar (1974). A lifelong devotee of jazz, Murray collaborated with Count BasieBasie, Count
(William Basie) , 1904–84, American jazz pianist, bandleader, and composer, b. Red Bank, N.J. After working in dance halls and vaudeville in New York City, Basie moved to Kansas City, a major jazz center.
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 on his autobiography (1985) and played a vital part, along with Wynton MarsalisMarsalis, Wynton
, 1961–, American trumpeter, bandleader, and composer, b. New Orleans. Born into a distinguished jazz family, he studied classical music at Juilliard.
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, in the creation of Jazz at Lincoln Center.


See A. Murray and J. F. Callahan, ed., Trading Twelves: The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray (2000); H. L. Gates, Jr., and P. Devlin, ed., Albert Murray: Collected Essays & Memoirs (2016).

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