RIP Albert Murray

ConversesAfrican/African American Literature

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RIP Albert Murray

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ag. 19, 2013, 6:25pm

RIP Albert Murray, the African-American novelist, jazz, literary and cultural critic, and biographer, who died yesterday at the age of 97. He was born in rural Alabama and embraced jazz music and the blues, which he chronicled in his memoir South to a Very Old Place, and a trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels, Train Whistle Guitar, The Spyglass Tree, and The Seven League Boots. He attended Tuskegee University in Alabama, and later was introduced to Ralph Ellison, with whom he developed a close, lifelong friendship that was chronicled in Trading Twelves, a splendid collection of letters of correspondence between the two men that discussed jazz, civil rights, American culture and Ellison's efforts to write and publish Invisible Man. Murray was also close friends with the artist Romare Bearden, and the two influenced each other's work over the years. He was also known for his groundbreaking and controversial book The Omni-Americans, published in 1970, which challenged the prevailing mindset that activism and isolation was the only method for blacks to gain equality in American society. He later befriended the critic Stanley Crouch and the jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, with whom he co-founded the successful Jazz at Lincoln Center program. Murray was an underrecognized but highly influential man, whose voice will be sadly missed by many.

New York Times: Albert Murray, Essayist Who Challenged the Conventional, Dies at 97