2014 91¢ Ralph Ellison
Literary Arts Series
This stamp is the 29th in the Literary Arts Series. It covered the 3-ounce domestic letter rate that became effective Jan. 26, 2014. The stamp pictures author Ralph Ellison in front of a Harlem street scene at twilight
Ralph Waldo Ellison (1914-1994) was named by his book-loving father for poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. Young Ralph inherited a lifelong fondness for literature and became a popular writer like his namesake.
While still young, Ellison was a self-proclaimed Renaissance man. His wide-ranging interests included music, sculpting, constructing audio equipment, and writing. He went to Tuskegee Institute on a music scholarship. But a summer in New York City changed his focus and the course of his life.
After working for the Federal Writers Program and submitting book reviews, Ellison was encouraged to pursue a career as an author. His essays were well received, but could not compare to the reception of his novel, Invisible Man. Published in 1952, the book dealt with issues of racial prejudice and the search for personal identity. A new type of black character was introduced, a man who was educated and well spoken. In the book, the narrator calls himself invisible because “people refuse to see” him.
Ellison went on to write many significant essays, but the only book published during his lifetime made the largest impact. The mark left by Invisible Man continues to be felt in literature and throughout American culture.
The oil painting used for this stamp’s design was based on a black and white photo of Ellison taken by Life magazine photographer Gordon Parks. The image appeared on the dust jacket for Ellison’s book Invisible Man.
91¢ Ralph Ellison, issued to satisfy the first-class rate for mail weighing up to three ounces
Issue Date: February 18, 2014
City: Kansas City, MO
Printed By: CCL Label, Inc.
Printing Method: Photogravure in sheets of 200, with 10 panes of 20 per sheet
Perforations: Serpentine Die Cut 11