Ralph Ellison: A Biography

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SPEAKER: Arnold Rampersad
EVENT DATE: 05/03/2007
RUNNING TIME: 71 minutes


Ralph Ellison never produced another novel in his lifetime after his magnum opus "Invisible Man," which won the National Book Award in 1953. Did success ruin him? This is one theme in the new biography of Ellison by Arnold Rampersad, the first scholar given complete access to Ellison's papers at the Library of Congress.

Rampersad discussed and signed his book, "Ralph Ellison: A Biography," as part of the Books & Beyond author series organized by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. The event was co-sponsored by the Library's Manuscript Division.
Ellison's story of an unnamed black man in 1940s New York City who struggles to find his identity and place in society won him the National Book Award for fiction and catapulted him to national prominence. Ellison went on to earn many other honors, including two presidential medals and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Yet, his failure to publish a second novel, despite years of striving, haunted him for the rest of his life.

Speaker Biography: Arnold Rampersad is Sara Hart Kimball Professional in the Humanities and a member of the Department of English at Stanford University. His books include biographies of Langston Hughes and Jackie Robinson, and he collaborated with Arthur Ashe on his memoir, "Days of Grace." He has written for The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic and The Washington Post and is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

SERIES: Books & Beyond

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