Ralph Waldo Ellison
(1914-1994) was an American
author and educator, and is considered one of the most influencial African-American
writers of the twentieth century
. He was born in Oklahoma City
and was schooled in the Tuskegee Institute
(which was started by Booker T. Washington
In his best-known work, Invisible Man, he presents the problem of American society ignoring blacks. The narrator is an unnamed black man who journeys in the South and the North for his place in the world. To portray the black experience in full, Ellison used powerful, rich, and varied language. Invisible Man was among the first novels to describe modern racial problems in the United States. It received the National Book Award for fiction in 1953.
Ellison also addressed many areas of American culture in his essay collections "Shadow and Act" and "Going to the Territory." He lectured at several colleges on African-American life. One of these colleges was New York University, where he remained from 1970 to 1979. In 1985, Ellison was among the first to receive the National Medal of Arts.
Later works of Ellison's include "Boy on a Train," "I Did Not Learn Their Names," and "Flying Home and Other Stories" (a collection of six of his stories from 1937-1954). His novel Juneteenth was published five years after his death, in 1999.