When was Invisible Man written?

Ralph Ellison started writing Invisible Man in 1945. It took him seven years to finish the book, although he wrote short stories during that period. The book was published in 1952 and immediately became a best seller. It was awarded the US National Book Award for Fiction in 1953. His other published works were short stories, and Invisible Man was the only full book that the author ever published during his lifetime.

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Ralph Ellison began writing Invisible Man in the mid-1940s, although the story takes place earlier in the twentieth century. The book took several years to complete. Specifically, according to the New York Times, the book was written “over a seven-year period” and published in 1952 by Random House. Once it was out, and it reached and stayed on the list of bestselling titles for sixteen weeks. One year after its publication, the book earned the US National Book Award for Fiction.

In describing Invisible Man, the National Book Foundation calls it

a milestone in American literature...[that] established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century.

The author attributed T. S. Elliot and his poem “The Waste Land as a major influence.

Like Ellison at the time that he wrote Invisible Man, the protagonist is a young Black man who is unnamed in the book. After coming of age in the American south and going to a segregated college (Ellison himself attended the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama), he moves to New York, just as the author did.

In New York, Ralph Ellison became involved with other young Black writers who would eventually become well-known authors, including Langston Hughes and Richard Wright. Ellison also got involved with the Federal Writers' Project, which was a New Deal jobs program that was part of the US Works Projects Administration (WPA). Although Invisible Man post-dates the Federal Writers' Project, which lasted from 1936 to 1940, other works by Ellison are included in its archives.

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