Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Ralph Ellison collection
Collection number: MS 249
Ellison, Ralph W.
2 document boxes
University of California, Santa Cruz. University Library.
Special Collections and Archives
Santa Cruz, California 95064
Abstract: The majority of this collection consists of photocopies of short stories, essays, reviews, speeches by Ellison and interviews
with Ellison. Two folders contain original material signed by Ellison. The books and selected serials have been cataloged
Physical location: Stored offsite at NRLF: Advance notice is required for access to the papers.
Languages represented in the collection:
Collection open for research.
Property rights reside with the University of California. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and
their heirs. For permission to publish or to reproduce the material, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
Ralph Ellison collection, 1938-1978. MS 249. Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of
California, Santa Cruz.
Ralph Waldo Ellison (1913-1994) was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 1933 he began studying music at Tuskegee Institute,
but financial complications caused him to leave before graduating. He moved to Harlem in New York City to study sculpture
and raise money to return to school, soon becoming a protégé of the author Richard Wright, whom he met in 1937. Ellison became
associated with the Federal Writers' Project, publishing short stories and articles in such magazines as
New Challenge and
New Masses. In 1942 he quit working with the Federal Writers' Project and became editor of the
Negro Quarterly. He served as a cook in the Merchant Marines from 1943-1945. The following seven years he spent writing
Invisible Man (1952), winner of the National Book Award in 1953. Although it was the only novel he completed during his lifetime, it gained
him a place as a respected American writer and remains as one of the central texts of the African-American experience.
Ellison lived in Rome from 1955-1958 before returning to the United States to take the first of many teaching positions he
was to hold at various universities. In 1964 his other major work appeared, a collection of essays and interviews entitled
Shadow and Act. He became the Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities at New York University in 1970, a position he held for nine
Ralph Ellison died of pancreatic cancer on April 16, 1994, and is buried in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York
City. His wife, Fanny McDonnell, lived until November 19, 2005.
Ellison's second novel,
Juneteenth was published five years after his death, under the editorship of John Callahan, Ellison's literary executor and a professor
at Lewis & Clark College. Callahan produced a 368-page condensation of the over 2000 pages written but never actually completed
by Ellison over a period of forty years. Earlier drafts of it had been lost when his house burned down, forcing him to start
over. The short story,
Flying Home, was also published posthumously in 1996.
Ralph Ellison was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969. Other awards he received include the Langston Hughes
Medal, the Rosenwald Grant, the Russwurm Award and the
Chevalier de l'Ordre des Artes et Lettres. Ellison was also a charter member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers.
Compiled from biography.com and "Ralph Ellison" by Mark Busby.
Scope and Content of Collection
The majority of this collection consists of photocopies of short stories, essays, reviews, speeches by Ellison and interviews
with Ellison. Two folders contain original material by Ellison. The books and selected serials have been cataloged separately.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in
the library's online public access catalog.
Ellison, Ralph W.--Archives
American literature--African American authors--History and criticism
African Americans in literature