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PHOTO ESSAY

Twentieth Century Literary Giants

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Ralph Waldo Ellison

Courtesy of Archival Research International/Double Delta Industries, Inc.

Named after another literary giant, as a young man Ralph Waldo Ellison was given a scholarship to attend the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama so he would not try to attend a white college or university in his home state of Oklahoma. It is unsurprising that many of his essays described the restrictive environment of the South and the detrimental effect segregation had upon individual potential and the region as a whole. Coming to New York in the midst of the Great Depression, Ellison was introduced into a creative community that included Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, and many others. His novel Invisible Man (1952) played upon ideas of alienation and identity in African American culture, as well as Ellison's powerful interest in jazz and politics. The book was well received, and in 1953 Ellison became the first African American writer to be awarded the National Book Award.

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