Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in the year 1914, Ralph Ellison was a celebrated National Book Award winner for his novel “Invisible Man”. He was awarded this this title in the year 1953. Even though he was best known for this novel, that is not all Ralph Ellison was. Ralph Ellison, besides being was novelist was an acclaimed writer, critic and scholar. His famous work on “Shadow and Art” was a collection of social, political and critical essays. He also wrote Going to the Territory in the year 1986.
Ralph Ellison was born to Lewis Alfred Ellison and Ida Millsap. His father died when Ralph was three years old due to stomach ulcers. Growing up, Ralph discovered his talent for being a poet. In the year 1933, Ellison took admission in the Tuskegee Institute on a scholarship in order to pursue music. Belonging to the most renowned music department, Ralph studied music under the wings of its conductor William L. Dawson. During his study as a musician, Ralph was cited in the library of the institute studying modernist classics. It is said to be the most awakening moment of his life where he realized his true potential and went on to becoming a renowned writer and critic.
After his four years of study the Tuskegee Institute, Ralph moved to New York City to study photography and sculptor. In New York City he met the famous artist Romare Bearden and the author Richard Wright. With Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison established a long and nurturing relationship. Ralph wrote a book review for Richard Wright and he was so impressed with his writing capabilities that he Ellison to pursue a career in writing, fiction specifically. “Hymie’s Bull” was the first published story by Ralph that was inspired by his hoboing on a train with his uncle in order to get to Tuskegee. Ralph has 20 book reviews to his credit, which he wrote between the years 1937 to 1944. He also wrote articles and short stories that went on to being published in different magazines. New Masses and New Challenge were one of the few pieces of his writing.
Together with his love for jazz music, Ralph went on to write essays about his love for jazz music and his black experience. He received many major awards for his work. He has the Presidential Medal of Freedom to his credit which he won in the year 1969 and following that year he was a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He became permanent faculty member at New York University where he taught Humanities from 1970 to 1980.
In the year 1957, Ralph was elected for The American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was honored in the Oklahoma City where he was born where the Ralph Waldo Ellison Library was established as an honor. In the year 1984, he received the New York City College’s Langston Hughes Medal and following that year he won the National Medal of Arts.
Ralph passed away on April 16 1994 after he suffered from pancreatic cancer and after he nurtured this earth with his writing and teaching. He was a professor at Bard College, the University of Chicago, Rutgers University and New York University. The Fellowship of Southern Writers also entered him as a chartered member.