Three Days Before the Shooting...

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Three Days Before the Shooting...
Author Ralph Ellison
Edited by John F. Callahan and Adam Bradley
Country United States
Language English
Genre African American literature
Publisher Random House
Publication date
January 26, 2010
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 1101
ISBN 978-0375759536
OCLC 154799741

Three Days Before the Shooting... is the title of the edited manuscript of Ralph Ellison's never-finished second novel. It was co-edited by John F. Callahan, the executor of Ellison's literary estate, and Adam Bradley, a professor of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder.[1] The book was published January 26, 2010 by Modern Library. An excerpt of Ralph Ellison's unfinished manuscripts was previously published as Juneteenth.


Ralph Ellison's first novel Invisible Man was published in 1952 to great critical success. In 1953 it beat Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea to win the National Book Award. Following the success of Invisible Man, Ellison became one of the most respected writers in the country, and became prominent in many elite circles.[2]

Invisible Man sold so well that royalty checks provided financial security for the rest of Ellison's life. The stream of money meant that the release of a second novel would be a literary decision and not a financial one.[1]

Ellison spent the 42 years after the publication of Invisible Man, until his death in 1994, working on his second novel. The reasons for this delay have been a subject of speculation and debate.[3] He produced over 2,000 manuscript pages, but never turned the content into a coherent novel.[2]

Literary executorship[edit]

According to John F. Callahan, a professor who had become close friends with Ellison after writing an article about Invisible Man, Ellison was so discouraged by the thought of his own death that he never discussed his literary executorship. Shortly after his death, Ellison's wife appointed Callahan as his literary executor. Callahan was overwhelmed by the amount of notes, computer disks and manuscript pages that Ellison had left behind.[1]

Readers of Ellison were eager to see what Ellison had written, but Callahan needed time to sort through the manuscript and find a way to make it publishable. In the meanwhile, he edited The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison in 1995 and Flying Home and Other Stories in 1996. In 1999, Callahan finished editing the most cohesive part of the manuscript, which was released as the standalone novel Juneteenth.[1]

After several more years of work, and with the co-editing of Adam Bradley, who started as a student assistant to Callahan in 1994 and eventually completed a literature doctorate at Harvard University, a publication date was set for a release of the manuscript with supporting notes under the title Three Days Before the Shooting.[1]


The plot of Three Days Before the Shooting revolves around a man named Bliss of indeterminate race who is raised by a black Baptist minister named Alonzo Hickman. As an adult he assumes a white identity and eventually becomes a race-baiting United States Senator named Adam Sunraider.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e Wil Haygood (2007-08-19). "The Invisible Manuscript". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  2. ^ a b c Donahue, Deirdre (2007-05-09). "Ralph Ellison: An invisible man no more". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  3. ^ "Ralph Ellison's unfinished second novel is finally published". Creative Loafing. 2010-01-22. 

Johnson, Loretta. "This Mammy-Made Nation Born in Blood: The Family as Nation in Ralph Waldo Ellison’s Three Days Before the Shooting … The Unfinished Second Novel." Callaloo 37.5 (2014): 1214-229. Web.