Fun Facts Friday: Ralph Ellison

March 1, 2019

Ralph Ellison (1 March, 1914 – 16 April, 1994) was an award winning novelist, critic and scholar known for his novel Invisible Man.

Books by Ralph Ellison*Books by Ralph Ellison*

  1. Born in Oklahoma City, OK, he was the grandson of slaves.
  2. His middle name was Waldo, and yes, he was named after Ralph Waldo Emerson.
  3. Ellison played his first musical instrument, a cornet, at the age of 8 years old.
  4. After high school, Mr. Ellison enrolled in the Tuskegee Institute as a music major. Unfortunately for the music world, but fortunately for the literary world, Mr. Ellison never finished his studies, but stayed in New York City to write.
  5. When World War II broke out, Mr. Ellison joined the U.S. Merchant Marine as a cook, fighting in the North Atlantic.
  6. Even though he had some communist sympathies, after the war he lost his faith as he felt the party betrayed African Americans.
  7. In 1952 his first novel, Invisible Man, was published to much success. It stayed on the best-seller list for 16 weeks and won the National Book Award.
  8. In 1967 a major house fire destroyed 300 pages of Mr. Ellison’s second novel. Even though he later wrote more than 2,000 pages, the novel was never finished.
  9. The work became his second novel, Juneteenth, which was published posthumously in 1994.
  10. Ellison died of pancreatic cancer, and is interred in a crypt at Trinity Church Cemetery, Manhattan.

Books by Ralph Ellison*

Zohar – Man of la Book
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account


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