The Library of Congress plans to celebrate the 98th birthday of Ralph Ellison on March 1 with reading and discussion of his work by award-winning authors Jabari Asim and Danielle Evans, the library announced on Monday.
Ellison, who was born in Oklahoma City on March 1, 1914, is best known for his novel, “Invisible Man,” published in 1952. The book, according to the Library of Congress, “transformed thinking about race, identity and what it means to be American.” The book won the National Book Award and has been recognized as one of the great American novels of the 20th century.
According to a news release from the Library of Congress, Ellison went on to distinguish himself as an essayist, publishing “Shadow and Act” in 1964 and “Going to the Territory” in 1986, and as a scholar, teaching at Rutgers University, Yale University, Bard College and the University of Chicago.
Ellison died in 1994. Several volumes of his writing have appeared posthumously, including the novel “Juneteenth.”
Asim and Evans, in addition to reading selections of Ellison’s prose, will discuss his influence on their own writing.
Asim is the author of “What Obama Means: … For Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Future” (2009); “The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why” (2007); a volume of short stories, “A Taste of Honey” (2010); and several children’s books. Asim serves as editor-in-chief of The Crisis, a journal of politics, ideas and culture published by the NAACP and founded by W.E.B. Du Bois in 1910, and he is a former editor at the Washington Post. He is an associate professor of writing, literature and publishing at Emerson College in Boston.
Evans is the author of a short-story collection “Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self,” which received the 2011 PEN American Robert W. Bingham Prize for a first book and was listed among the best books of 2010 by Kirkus Reviews and O Magazine. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, A Public Space and Callaloo, as well as “The Best American Short Stories” of 2008 and 2010. She is a professor of literature and creative writing at The American University in Washington, D.C.
The birthday celebration is sponsored by the Library’s Manuscript Division and the Poetry and Literature Center.
The Manuscript Division holds more than 61 million items, including the papers of 23 U.S. presidents, from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge. For more information about the collections and holdings of the Manuscript Division, visit www.loc.gov/rr/mss/.