Albert Murray (writer)
May 12, 1916|
Nokomis, Escambia County, Alabama
|Died||August 18, 2013
Harlem, New York
Murray was born in Nokomis, Escambia County, Alabama. He attended the Tuskegee Institute and received a bachelor's degree in 1939. He later earned a master's degree from New York University in 1948. In 1943 he entered the U.S. Air Force, from which he retired as a major in 1962.
Murray began his writing career in earnest in 1962, after he retired from the military. His first book The Omni-Americans (1970) received critical acclaim.
Though they did not know each other at Tuskegee, Murray and Ralph Ellison became close friends shortly after Murray graduated. Their mutually influential relationship — reflected in the book Trading Twelves: The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray — informed the thinking and writing of both men from the time of the writing of Ellison's Invisible Man (1952), through Murray's social-aesthetic works and novels, up until Ellison's death in 1994.
Murray and the American painter Romare Bearden were also close friends and influenced each other's art. Bearden's 1971 six-panel, 18-foot collage The Block was inspired by the view from Murray's Harlem apartment.
As detailed in Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s New Yorker profile "King of Cats" (April 8, 1996) and in Sanford Pinsker's article in the Virginia Quarterly Review (linked below), Murray received greater attention in the 1980s and 1990s due to his influence on critic Stanley Crouch and jazz musician Wynton Marsalis. Both Crouch and Marsalis gained controversial notoriety for their advocacy of what Murray, in Stomping the Blues, identified as the core elements of jazz: swing, blues tonalities, and acoustic sounds. After detailing Murray's insightful engagement—in non-fiction and fiction—of history, politics, aesthetics, painting, music, and literature, Gates concluded his profile by noting: "This is Albert Murray's century, we just live in it."
He died in Harlem in 2013, aged 97.
- The Omni-Americans: Black Experience & American Culture (1970)
- South to a Very Old Place (1971)
- Train Whistle Guitar, novel (1974)
- Stomping the Blues (1976)
- The Spyglass Tree (1991)
- The Blue Devils of Nada, a collection of essays (1996)
- The Hero And the Blues (1996)
- The Seven League Boots (1996)
- Trading Twelves: The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray (2001).
- Conjugations and Reiterations: Poems (2001)
- From the Briarpatch File: On Context, Procedure, and American Identity (2001)
- "Romare Bearden's The Block and Related Drawings On View at Metropolitan Museum Beginning January 15." www.metmuseum.org. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
- Watkins, Mel. "Albert Murray, Scholar Who Saw a Multicolored American Culture, Dies at 97." The New York Times, August 19, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
- Albert Murray at the Internet Movie Database
- Pinsker, Sanford, "Albert Murray: the Black Intellectuals' Maverick Patriarch", Virginia Quarterly Review, Autumn 1996
- "Distinguished Artist Award," Alabama Arts Council, 2003.
- Go to iTunes U to view "Albert Murray and the Aesthetic Imagination of a Nation: A SympoSium" from Auburn University, January 2008.
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Boynton, Robert "The New Intellectuals," The Atlantic Monthly, March 1995.