Author: Ralph Ellison

Ralph Waldo Ellison (1914–94) was an African American author, best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the 1953 National Book Award. Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Ellison attended the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where he studied music—and where he first became interested in literature. After three years at the Institute, he moved to New York City to study sculpture and photography, and soon thereafter began his writing career, penning book reviews and writing short fiction. When Invisible Man was published in 1952, it was an immediate critical success, and Ellison began teaching—first at Bard College, then at Rutgers University, the University of Chicago, and New York University. Other books include Flying Home and Other Stories (1996), Juneteenth (1999), and Three Days Before the Shooting (2010)—all published posthumously.

The Battle Royal

Ralph Ellison

The black man’s quest for his own identity and the recognition of his humanity is the theme of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1914–94), arguably the 20th century’s greatest novel about the African American experience. In this selection, the novel’s first chapter, Ellison’s young protagonist/narrator embarks on a long journey “to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself. But first I had to discover that I am an invisible man!”