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Ralph Ellison

Biography: 

Ralph Ellison (1914-1994) was a writer and university professor. A native of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Ellison was named for the essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. Ellison studied classical composition at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama from 1933 to 1936, when he moved to New York and began working with the Federal Writers Project. After serving as a cook in the Merchant Marine during World War II, Ellison wrote numerous short stories. Random House published Ellison's Invisible Man, a book that took him seven years to complete. The book, which is an account of a young African American's awakening to racial discrimination, received much acclaim and won the National Book Award for fiction in 1953. Ellison befriended Robert Penn Warren while the two were both in residence at the American Academy in Rome in 1956 and 1957. Ellison taught creative writing at New York University and also taught at numerous other institutions, including Bard College and Yale University. At the time of his death, Ellison had been working on a second novel for forty years. His second novel, Juneteenth, was published posthumously in 1999 under the editorship of his literary executor.

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