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Ralph Ellison



Ralph Ellison
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   10.22

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    callahan, colorblind, executor, unnamed, following, faculty, anthology, oneself, groundbreaking, scholar, racial, literary, conservative, reading, writing, editor
     content words:    Ralph Waldo Ellison, Invisible Man, Black Art, Oklahoma City, Ida Ellison, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lewis Ellison, Tuskegee Institute, Macon County, Waste Land


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Ralph Ellison
By Jamie Kee
  

1     Ralph Waldo Ellison was an African-American writer, teacher, and scholar who gained his fame by his successful novel, Invisible Man. Ellison considered literature "colorblind" and attempted to use racial issues as universal struggles in discovering oneself. Because of this, he was sometimes rejected by artists during the Black Art movement.
 
2     Despite being born on March 1, 1913, Ellison later decided to say he was born in 1914. He was born in Oklahoma City to parents Lewis and Ida Ellison and was named after the famous American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. Lewis Ellison had hopes that his son would grow up to become a poet. Sadly, Lewis would never see his son's success because he died when Ellison was only three. Ellison had one brother, Herbert, who was born in 1916. On her own, Ida was forced to support herself and her children by working as a domestic servant. She was a strong supporter of Socialism, having been arrested several times for violating segregation orders.
 
3     In his youth, Ellison enjoyed playing the trumpet and began performing in high school. Through a scholarship in music, Ellison entered the Tuskegee Institute of Macon County, Alabama, in 1933. Unfortunately, it was a conservative atmosphere, and Ellison was most interested in jazz. He did find himself spending more time in the library reading the modernist classics, with The Waste Land having a major impact on him. After three years at the school, Ellison moved to New York City in order to earn money for his final year. He became interested in studying sculpture. However, a chance meeting with Langston Hughes and Richard Wright encouraged Ellison to join the Federal Writers' Project. When Ellison wrote a book review for Wright, it was Wright who encouraged him to pursue writing, and so Ellison began writing essays, reviews, and short stories for periodicals. He wrote over twenty book reviews, short stories, and articles in New Challenge and New Masses. Ellison later became an editor of the Negro Quarterly and also began writing a novel.

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