Ralph Ellison (1914-1994), whose birthday was March 1, was an American novelist, literary critic, and scholar. He is best known for his novel Invisible Man, which explores the search for identity and place in society, as seen from the perspective of an unnamed black man in New York City during the 1930s. It won the National Book Award in 1953. Ellison also wrote Shadow and Act (1964), a collection of political, social and critical essays, and Going to the Territory (1986). A posthumous novel, Juneteenth, was published after being assembled from notes found after his death.
In 1969, Ellison received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The following year, he was made a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by France and became a permanent member of the faculty at New York University as the Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities, serving from 1970 to 1980. During his career, he also taught at Bard College, Rutgers University, and the University of Chicago.
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