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Thu, 04.09.1914

Ralph Ellison, Author, and Educator born

Ralph W. Ellison

Ralph Ellison was born on this date in 1914. He was a Black author, educator, and one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.

Ralph Waldo Ellison was born in Oklahoma City and attended Douglass H.S. and was a Trumpet student of Zelia Breaux.  After graduation he educated at Tuskegee Institute.   After a short-lived first marriage, Ellison married Fanny McConnell in 1946.   His best-known work, "Invisible Man," expounds the theme that American society willfully ignores Blacks.  The novel was one of the first works to describe modern racial problems in the United States from a Black point of view.  It received the National Book Award for fiction in 1953. In his essay collections, “Shadow” and “Act and Going to the Territory,” Ellison addressed various aspects of American culture.

He is also noted for many magazine articles and short stories, and during his career he lectured at many colleges and universities on the subject of the Black American. In 1985 he was one of the first recipients of the National Medal of Arts. At the time of his death, his long-awaited second novel, delayed in part by the destruction of hundreds of pages in a 1967 fire, was left uncompleted. In 1995 (the year after his death), “The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison” was published.

The following year, his literary executor discovered several of his unpublished stories. Two of them, "Boy on a Train" and "I Did Not Learn Their Names," appeared in The New Yorker magazine in late 1996. “Flying Home and Other Stories,” a collection of Ellison’s stories written between 1937 and 1954, includes six previously unpublished pieces.

He and his wife were a devoted couple, they lived together in an apartment on Riverside Drive in New York City until Ellison died in April 1994.  There were no children. Fanny McConnell Ellison died in 2005 at the age of 93.

To be a Writer


The World Book Encyclopedia.
Copyright 1996, World Book, Inc.
ISBN 0-7166-0096-X

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