Ralph Ellison: A Biography

Alfred A. Knopf

Arnold Rampersad's Ralph Ellison: A Biography, a study of the life of the author of the classic American Novel Invisible Man (1952), was praised in newspapers and magazines across the country.  The Chicago Tribune called it "outstanding . . . respectful, engaging, and penetrating . . . a significant contribution to our understandings of race, literature, and politics in the second half of the 20th century;" the Nation hailed it as "elegant . . . compassionate yet devastating;" and the Atlantic declared: "If anyone can finally provide more answers than questions about this most complex of men, it is Rampersad this vivid, graceful, exceptionally intelligent work." According to Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, "Ralph Ellison's place in American literature demands a biography that is as eloquent, thorough, and wise as its subject.  This is it.  The book represents a flawless match of biographer and subject.  In Arnold Rampersad's hands we fathom both the burden and measure of Ellison's brilliance." Ralph Ellison has been nominated as a finalist for the National Book Award for 2007.

About the Author

At Stanford Since: 1974


Arnold Rampersad was a member of the department from 1974 to 1983, before resigning to accept a position at Rutgers University. Since then he has taught there and at Columbia and Princeton before returning to Stanford in 1998. He has just published Ralph Ellison, a biography of the novelist (1914 - 1994). His other books include The Art and Imagination of W.E.B. DuBois (1976); The Life of Langston Hughes (2 vols., 1986, 1988); Days of Grace: A Memoir (1993), co-authored with Arthur Ashe; and Jackie Robinson: A Biography (1997). In addition, he has edited several volumes including Collected Poems of Langston Hughes; the Library of America edition (2 vols.) of works by Richard Wright, with revised individual editions of Native Son and Black Boy; and (as co-editor with Deborah McDowell) Slavery and the Literary Imagination. He was also co-editor, with Shelley Fisher Fishkin, of the Race and American Culture book series published by Oxford University Press. His teaching covers such areas as nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature; American autobiography; race and American literature; and African-American literature. From 1991 to 1996, he held a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He is a 2010 recipient of the National Humanities Medal.