Essay on Ralph Ellison Living with Music

1434 Words Sep 3rd, 2011 6 Pages
Ralph Ellison Ralph Ellison

Ralph Waldo Ellison was born March 1, 1914 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Lewis Alfred and Ida Millsap Ellison. At the beginning of this century, Oklahoma had not been a state for very long and was still considered a part of the frontier. Lewis and Ida Ellison had each grown up in the South to parents who had been slaves. The couple moved out west to Oklahoma hoping the lives of their children would be fueled with a sense of possibility in this state that was reputed for its freedom. Though the prejudices of Texas and Arkansas soon encroached upon Oklahoma, the open spaces and fighting spirit of the people whom Ellison grew up among did provide him with a relatively unbiased atmosphere.

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Although he received musical training in many instruments as well as theory, he held a high preference for the trumpet and was talented enough to obtain training from the conductor of the Oklahoma City Orchestra. Ellison took part in playing at many concerts, marches, bands, and celebrations for the town. During the midst of this study, he did not lose sight of his desire to be a Renaissance Man, however, and spent time playing football, working at small jobs, and experimenting in electronics.

In 1933, Ellison left Oklahoma and headed to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to study music, with the help of a scholarship he had won from the state of Oklahoma. One of his music teachers at the school was Hazel Harrison who would later introduce Ellison to Alain Locke, a New Negro thinker, who would lead Ellison to his writing career years later through connections to Langston Hughes and Richard Wright. At Tuskegee, Ellison excelled in his music program as well as taking a particular liking to his sociology and sculpture classes and the outside classroom which Alabama provided. Though not pleased with the desire of the state's people, black and white, to categorize him as he had never experienced at home, he did appreciate the chance to raise his own consciousness concerning the rest of the country he lived in. Literature would also influence his say at Tuskegee as he again delved into the expansive libraries at his disposal. T.S.

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