Murray, Albert Lee

Murray, Albert Lee, 1916–2013, American essayist, novelist, and critic, b. Nokomis, Ala., grad. Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee Univ.; B.S., 1939) and New York Univ. (M.A., 1948). Murray enlisted in the Army Air Corps (1943–45) during World War II, and later reenlisted (1951–62), retiring from the U.S. Air Force as a major. In the postwar period, Murray was among the black intelligentsia debating the role of African-American culture in American life and became good friends with Ralph Ellison and Romare Bearden. Murray insisted that integration, not black separatism, was necessary and inevitable, and that the black experience was already a vital part of American culture. The essays in his first book, The Omni-Americans: New Perspectives on Black Experience and American Culture (1970), argued against black nationalism. Among his other books are the nonfiction The Hero and the Blues (1973) and Stomping the Blues (1976), as well as a series of semiautobiographical novels, beginning with Train Whistle Guitar (1974). A lifelong devotee of jazz, Murray collaborated with Count Basie on his autobiography (1985) and played a vital part, along with Wynton Marsalis, in the creation of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

See A. Murray and J. F. Callahan, ed., Trading Twelves: The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray (2000); H. L. Gates, Jr., and P. Devlin, ed., Albert Murray: Collected Essays & Memoirs (2016).

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