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Ralph Ellison Ralph Waldo Ellison was born the grandson of slaves in 1914 in Oklahoma City He is the author of The Invisible Man 1952 one of the most important and influential postwar American novels I blundered into writing admitted Ellison in a 1961 interview with novelist Richard Stern From the time he was eight years old when his mother bought him a used coronet he wanted to be a musician He cut grass in exchange for trumpet lessons and worked as an elevator operator for two years at eight dollars a week to save tuition money When he was finally awarded a music scholarship to Tuskegee Institute he was unable to afford train passage so he hopped freight trains all the way from Oklahoma City to Alabama 1 In 1936 Ellison traveled to New York where he tried unsuccessfully to find work to earn his senior years tuition It was here that he met Richard Wright who encouraged him to try his hand at writing2 His very first piece was a book review which was published in Wrights magazine New Challenge For a time Ellison would continue to pursue music and even experiment with sculpting but in 1937 his mothers sudden passing away changed Ellisons life forever He traveled to Cincinnati to keep her company through what he thought was a minor illness only to find her near death She was in such pain that she knew no one he wrote to friends It was the worse thing that has ever happened and I cant explain the emptiness4 It was this Ellison alone and distraught in a strange city that started trying to write He was befriended by one of the first black lawyers in Dayton Ohio Lawyer Stokes as Ellison referred to him as who saw him sitting each day in a corner of the local coffee shop writing stories The friendship grew and in time Lawyer Stokes offered Ellison the keys to
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