Many say that Ralph Waldo Ellison (1914-1994)
kick-started the beginnings of
the Civil Rights Movement in the United States
with his famous novel,
Invisible Man. Although he resisted activism in
his personal life, Ellison
empowered the nation through the wonderful words
that finally described
reality for young black men.
Born in Oklahoma from humble beginnings, Ellison
faced a difficult life
growing up in the south. He studied music and art
at an early age, and moved
to New York City to find work when he was 22.
Ellison catapulted onto the
literary scene after meeting Richard Wright,
author of "Native Son." Wright,
whose success arose from writing about black
life, befriended the young
writer and encouraged him to voice his experience
with racial prejudices.
Ellison wrote with the Federal Writing Project
until "Invisible Man" was
published in 1952.
Following the immediate success of his first
novel, Ellison won the National
Book Award in 1953 and began lecturing and
writing on race issues. He
eventually became a professor of humanities at
New York University and
continued to write short stories and essays. Even
after his death in 1994,
Ralph Ellison remains a hero and an inspiration
for his brave and profound
American Masters: Ralph Ellison
This PBS site features a biographical essay and interactive timeline of the author's life. The site was created for the PBS special on Ellison's life, so you can also find documentary footage and a discussion with the filmmaker about his experiencing chronicling Ellison's "profoundly significant" work.
Decoding Ralph Ellison
This essay on the writer and his novel
understands the complexity Ellison
created for his characters and his style.
Competitive with other 1960s
such as J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" and
Richard Wright's "Native Son,"
"Invisible Man" deserves top honors according
to this review.