30 Facts About Ralph Ellison


Ralph Ellison was an American writer, literary critic, and scholar best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953.


Ralph Ellison wrote Shadow and Act, a collection of political, social, and critical essays, and Going to the Territory.


Ralph Waldo Ellison, named after Ralph Waldo Emerson, was born at 407 NE 1st Street in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Lewis Alfred Ellison and Ida Millsap, on March 1,1913.


Ralph Ellison was the second of three sons; firstborn Alfred died in infancy, and younger brother Herbert Maurice was born in 1916.


The elder Ralph Ellison loved literature, and doted on his children.


Ralph Ellison later discovered, as an adult, that his father had hoped he would grow up to be a poet.


However, the family life was precarious, and Ralph Ellison worked various jobs during his youth and teens to assist with family support.


Ralph Ellison worked for a year, and found the money to make a down payment on a trumpet, using it to play with local musicians, and to take further music lessons.


Ralph Ellison was finally admitted in 1933 for lack of a trumpet player in its orchestra.


Ralph Ellison hopped freight trains to get to Alabama, and was to find out that the institution was no less class-conscious than white institutions generally were.


Ralph Ellison was guided by the department's piano instructor, Hazel Harrison.


Ralph Ellison cited reading T S Eliot's The Waste Land as a major awakening moment.


Ralph Ellison discussed this passion in a December 1955 essay, "Living With Music," in High Fidelity magazine.


Ralph Ellison remained at Tuskegee until 1936, and decided to leave before completing the requirements for a degree.


Ralph Ellison met several artists who would influence his later life, including the artist Romare Bearden and the author Richard Wright.


Ralph Ellison's first published story was "Hymie's Bull," inspired by Ellison's 1933 hoboing on a train with his uncle to get to Tuskegee.


From 1937 to 1944, Ralph Ellison had over 20 book reviews, as well as short stories and articles, published in magazines such as New Challenge and The New Masses.


Wright was then openly associated with the Communist Party, and Ralph Ellison was publishing and editing for communist publications, although his "affiliation was quieter," according to historian Carol Polsgrove in Divided Minds.


In 1938, Ralph Ellison met Rose Araminta Poindexter, a woman two years his senior.


At the start of World War II, Ralph Ellison was classed 1A by the local Selective Service System, and thus eligible for the draft.


In contrast to his contemporaries such as Richard Wright and James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison created characters that are dispassionate, educated, articulate, and self-aware.


In 1964, Ralph Ellison published Shadow and Act, a collection of essays, and began to teach at Bard College, Rutgers University and Yale University, while continuing to work on his novel.


In 1967, Ralph Ellison experienced a major house fire at his summer home in Plainfield, Massachusetts, in which he claimed more than 300 pages of his second novel manuscript were lost.


Ralph Ellison ultimately wrote more than 2,000 pages of this second novel but never finished it.


Ralph Ellison died on April 16,1994, of pancreatic cancer and was interred in a crypt at Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan.


Ralph Ellison eventually was admitted to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, received two President's Medals and a State Medal from France.


Ralph Ellison was the first African-American admitted to the Century Association and was awarded an honorary Doctorate from Harvard University.


In 1992, Ralph Ellison was awarded a special achievement award from the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards; his artistic achievements included work as a sculptor, musician, photographer, and college professor as well as his writing output.


Ralph Ellison taught at Bard College, Rutgers University, the University of Chicago, and New York University.


Ralph Ellison was a charter member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers.