Albert Murray on Ralph Ellison

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The canonical black American writers Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray felt their kinship as voracious undergraduates at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in the 1930s. They knew each other by their jazz enthusiasms in Armstrong, Bessie Smith and Ellington and by their reading lists: starting with the English novelists Fielding and the Brontes, then the European and American moderns T. S. Eliot, Auden, Faulkner, Hemingway, Gide, Malraux.

For Ellison and Murray both, the lifetime project became to see 300 years’ survival in American slavery and segregation in the light of world literature — and then to write the folklore and the reality of that experience at the level of the Russian novelists, in a black American idiom. These were the dreams that produced Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Murray’s influential essays, and a memorable friendship.
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Writer Albert Murray.