After his service in World War II, he produced “The invisible man“, which won the 1953 National Book Award, in the fiction category. The story is a training novel that tells of a naive and idealistic (and, significantly, nameless) young black man from the South who goes to Harlem, joins fighting against white oppression, and ends up being ignored by his fellow blacks, as well as by whites.
The novel won accolades for its stylistic innovations in blending classical literary motifs with modern black speech and culture, while providing a unique perspective on the construction of contemporary African-American identity. However, the treatment of his novel as, above all, a work of art, produced some complaints from his fellow black novelists, that Ellington was not sufficiently devoted to social change.
After “The invisible man“, Ellison published only two collections of essays: Shadow and Act (1964) and Going to the Territory (1986). He gave countless lectures on black culture, folklore, and creative writing and taught at various American universities.
Ralph ellison passed away in New York City on April 16, 1994.
“Flying Home and other stories“was published posthumously in 1996. He left a second novel unfinished at his death; it was published, in a much shorter version, under the title Juneteenth in 1999.