Author and Educator. He is best known for his novel, Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953. He is included in the group of great African-American authors of the 20th Century which includes Langston Hughes, Richard Wright and James Baldwin. Invisible Man is considered by some to be the most significant American novel since World War II and has been called the Moby Dick of the 20th century. The unnamed narrator of the book moves from a frontier belief in freedom and harmony to a confrontation with the restrictive reality of society and finally an understanding of what the author calls "the personal moral responsibility for democracy." Ellison was born and grew up in Oklahoma City. His father, Lewis, named him after Ralph Waldo Emerson possibly hoping that he would become a poet. He attended Tuskegee Institute on a scholarship to study music, but left after 3 years and moved to New York City where he met Richard Wright and Langston Hughes who encouraged him to try writing as a career. In addition to the novel he wrote numerous short stories, essays, works of literary criticism and reviews. Bibliographies of his works are readily available. He was also successful as a sculptor, musician and photographer. He served in the Merchant Marine during World War II and later became editor of the Negro Quarterly. In his later years he worked as a college professor and lecturer, teaching at Bard College, Rutgers, the University of Chicago, New York University, and in Salzburg, Austria. In addition to his literary honors, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson in 1969. He died of pancreatic cancer.
Bio by: Richard Cheek
Fanny McConnell Ellison