The award was his ticket into the American literary establishment. He eventually was admitted to the American Academy of Arts and Letters , received two President's Medals (from Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan ) and a State Medal from France. He was the first African-American admitted to the Century Association  and was awarded an honorary Doctorate from Harvard University . Disillusioned by his experience with the Communist Party, he used his new fame to speak out for literature as a moral instrument.  :70–72 In 1955 he traveled to Europe, visiting and lecturing, settling for a time in Rome , where he wrote an essay that appeared in a 1957 Bantam anthology called A New Southern Harvest . Robert Penn Warren was in Rome during the same period, and the two writers became close friends.  Later, Warren would interview Ellison about his thoughts on race, history, and the Civil Rights Movement for his book Who Speaks for the Negro?  In 1958, Ellison returned to the United States to take a position teaching American and Russian literature at Bard College and to begin a second novel, Juneteenth . During the 1950s, he corresponded with his lifelong friend, the writer Albert Murray . In their letters they commented on the development of their careers, the Civil Rights Movement , and other common interests including jazz. Much of this material was published in the collection Trading Twelves (2000).
The narrator returns to Harlem, trailed by Ras's men, and buys a hat and a pair of sunglasses to elude them. As a result, he is repeatedly mistaken for a man named Rinehart, known as a lover, a hipster, a gambler, a briber, and a spiritual leader. Understanding that Rinehart has adapted to white society at the cost of his own identity, the narrator resolves to undermine the Brotherhood by feeding them dishonest information concerning the Harlem membership and situation. After seducing the wife of one member in a fruitless attempt to learn their new activities, he discovers that riots have broken out in Harlem due to widespread unrest. He realizes that the Brotherhood has been counting on such an event in order to further its own aims. The narrator gets mixed up with a gang of looters, who burn down a tenement building, and wanders away from them to find Ras, now on horseback, armed with a spear and shield, and calling himself "the Destroyer." Ras shouts for the crowd to lynch the narrator, but the narrator attacks him with the spear and escapes into an underground coal bin. Two white men seal him in, leaving him alone to ponder the racism he has experienced in his life.
An article on Thursday about collaborations between the photographer Gordon Parks and the writer Ralph Ellison, including the project “Harlem Is Nowhere,” misstated a comment by Ellison in a letter to the author Richard Wright. He wrote that he hoped that the Harlem project would “make for something new in photo-journalism,” not that it would be a “new departure in photo reporting.” (That comment was made in a letter to Ellison from Richard E. Lauterbach, editor of the magazine in which the project was originally scheduled to appear.)