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Ralph Ellison: An American Journey

If there’s one thing PBS can do, it’s make an excellent documentary. I’ve posted before about documentaries on the life of James Baldwin and Walker Percy and Richard Wright and The Dust Bowl weather event that inspired The Grapes of Wrath.

But they also created An American Journey, the first ever documentary to cover the life of Ralph Ellison. Since, surprisingly, a feature film has never been made about Invisible Man, the documentary also includes the first scenes ever filmed from the novel.

The documentary discusses Ellison’s friendship with Richard Wright, author of Native Son, and how Wright influenced him to choose a career in writing over music. And though I haven’t yet watched An American Journey, it appears to be an in-depth look at how Ellison wrote Invisible Man over a period of seven years.

PBS sums up the documentary this way: “An American Journey explores the many ways one of our most important writers and thinkers grappled with the question: ‘What does it mean to be an American?'”

A brief trailer for the documentary is below, if you’re interested. It looks fascinating.


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