Ellison, Ralph Waldo | 2002
- Birth and Death Year | 1914-1994
- Induction Year | 2002
- Profession | Author
- Oklahoma Connection | Ellison was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
- Hometown | Oklahoma City
Ralph Ellison’s most famous work was the novel Invisible Man. Considered by scholars to be among the top five books of the 20th century, Ellison received the National Book Award for the work in 1953 and, by 1965, 200 authors, critics and editors in a New York Herald Tribune Book Week poll judged the book as “the most distinguished single work in the last 20 years.”
“Ellis had more understanding of the American possibility that almost any American writer…and Oklahoma gave him that…He always looked at Oklahoma through rose-colored glasses. He tended to see the heroic, the pioneer spirit. He used to refer to Oklahoma as ‘the promised land.’” - Paul Lee
Ralph Waldo Ellison attended Frederick Douglass Elementary School and graduated from high school, where he was first-chair trumpet player and conductor of the school band, with honors in 1931. He left Oklahoma City on a freight train to study music at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama from 1933 to 1935 and traveled to New York City in 1936 to study sculpture. Ellison was introduced to novelist Richard Wright in 1937, who urged Ellison to become a writer. That year, Ellison wrote his first short story and published book review. From 1938 to 1941 he worked as a member of the New Deal’s Federal Writer’s Project and by 1939 began the publication of eight short stories. He began to write Invisible Man in 1945 and it was published in 1952. Ellison received the National Book Award for the work in 1953 and, by 1965, 200 authors, critics and editors in a New York Herald Tribune Book Week poll judged the book as “the most distinguished single work in the last 20 years.” Invisible Man is considered by scholars to be among the top five books of the 20th century. Ellison later taught Russian and American literature at Bard College from 1958 to 1964 and earned many prestigious awards for the next thirty years, including the Medal of Freedom.