A radiant collection of letters from the renowned author of Invisible Man that trace the life and mind of a giant of American literature, with insights into the riddle of identity, the writer’s craft, and the story of a changing nation over six decades.
These extensive and revealing letters span the life of Ralph Ellison and provide a remarkable window into the great writer’s life and work, his friendships, rivalries, anxieties, and all the questions about identity, art, and the American soul that bedeviled and inspired him until his death. They include early notes to his mother, written as an impoverished college student; lively exchanges with the most distinguished American writers and thinkers of his time, from Romare Bearden to Saul Bellow; and letters to friends and family from his hometown of Oklahoma City, whose influence would always be paramount.
These letters are beautifully rendered first-person accounts of Ellison’s life and work and his observations of a changing world, showing his metamorphosis from a wide-eyed student into a towering public intellectual who confronted and articulated America’s complexities.
John F. Callahan is literary executor for Ralph Ellison, and was the editor for his posthumously-released novel Juneteenth. In addition to his work with Ellison, Callahan has written or edited numerous volumes related to African-American literature, with a particular emphasis on 20th century literature.
Dr. Marc C. Conner is the Jo M. and James M. Ballengee Professor of English at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Professor Conner earned his bachelor's degrees in English and philosophy at the University of Washington and his master's and doctoral degrees in English literature at Princeton University.
Ralph Ellison (1914–1994) was born in Oklahoma and trained as a musician at Tuskegee Institute from 1933 to 1936, at which time a visit to New York and a meeting with Richard Wright led to his first attempts at fiction. Invisible Man won the National Book Award. Appointed to the Academy of American Arts and Letters in 1964, Ellison taught at several institutions, including Bard College, the University of Chicago, and New York University, where he was Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities.