Fanny Ellison; Helped Edit 'Invisible Man'
Saturday, December 3, 2005
Fanny McConnell Ellison, 93, a writer, political activist and theater director who helped edit her husband Ralph's masterpiece, "Invisible Man," died Nov. 19 at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan of complications from hip surgery.
The couple met through the poet Langston Hughes, who set them up on a date after Mrs. Ellison told him she wanted to meet a man who was interested in books. They were married from August 1946 until Ralph Ellison's death, in April 1994 at age 80.
Fanny McConnell was born in 1911 in Louisville and grew up in Colorado and Chicago. She attended Fisk University and the University of Iowa, from which she graduated.
She moved to Chicago, where she founded the Negro People's Theater in 1938. She also worked at the Chicago Defender, a black newspaper, for which she wrote a column about politics and reviews and essays.
During World War II, she worked as a clerk for the War Production Board in Washington. Her 1938 marriage to Ligon Buford ended in divorce during the war.
She moved to New York in 1943 to become assistant to the director of the National Urban League and met Ellison the next year.
After they married, Mrs. Ellison worked for the American Medical Center for Burma, a charity supporting medical missionary work. She also typed the manuscript for "Invisible Man," which her husband wrote in longhand.
Ralph Ellison readily admitted that his wife provided editorial assistance on the book, which was published in 1952 and is considered one of the great works of 20th century literature.
Ralph Ellison struggled for decades to write a second book. After his death, Mrs. Ellison authorized John Callahan, a professor at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., to gather some of his essays into a book and some short stories into another. She also asked Callahan to fashion a novel out of more than 2,000 pages of unfinished fragments. The novel, "Juneteenth," was published in 1999 to mixed reviews.
She leaves no survivors.