Ralph Ellison was born in Oklahoma City in 1914. His father worked in construction, before starting a small ice and coal firm. His mother was a political activist and worked for Eugene Debs‘ Socialist Party. When her husband died in 1917 as the result of an accident, she worked as a domestic and as custodian of an apartment building. Ellison attended the Tuskegee Institute to study music but started taking an interest in literature. He left in his final year to go to New York to earn some money to be able to finish his studies. He got a job in the YMCA and started studying sculpture and worked various jobs to support himself. He met Langston Hughes and, through Hughes, met Richard Wright. He wrote a review for Wright’s New Challenge but a story he wrote for the magazine was never published as the magazine folded before it was published. He started to work for the Federal Writers’ Project. At the same time he was also writing reviews and short stories.
In World War II he joined the Merchant Marine, where he worked as a cook. On his return he started writing Invisible Man and, with the aid of a grant and his wife’s earnings, he spent the next seven years writing it. The book was successful on publication, enabling Ellison to travel to Europe. He began to teach and started work on the novel Juneteenth. A fire in his house in 1967 destroyed a large part of the manuscript, according to Ellison, but this has now been challenged. He apparently wrote 2000 pages of the novel but it was never completed. A 368 page condensation of the novel was published five year after his death in 1994 and the entire remaining manuscript in 2009. Ellison will be remembered for producing one of the major US novels of the second half of the twentieth century.
Ralph Ellison, (1914-1994)
Ralph Ellison, (1913 (sic)-1994)
Featured Author: Ralph Ellison
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Visible Man (profile)
Biography of Ralph Ellison (1914-1994)
Ralph Ellison: Poet of Democratic Excellence
Ralph Ellison–from leftist reviews to modernist interiority
1952 Invisible Man
1964 Shadow and Act
1986 Going to the Territory
1996 Flying Home and Other Stories
2009 Three Days Before the Shooting