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The Autobiography of an Ex–Colored Man - cover

The Autobiography of an Ex–Colored Man

James Weldon Johnson

Publisher: Open Road Media

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Summary

In this classic novel from the Harlem Renaissance, a biracial musician living in the Jim Crow era chooses to pass as white and deals with the consequences. First published in 1912, The Autobiography of an Ex–Colored Man is the story of an unnamed, light-skinned, biracial narrator born in a small Georgia town during the years following the Civil War. He knows nothing about race—until he and his Black mother move to Connecticut and an episode at his school forces her to explain things to him. As the narrator grows up, he pursues a higher education and begins traveling to cities like New York and Paris. He develops desires and ambitions, but everything changes when he returns to the South and witnesses the lynching of a Black man. The horror of the scene persuades him to live as white, but this decision comes at a cost . . .The Autobiography of an Ex–Colored Man covered issues and themes not usually seen in the literature of its day. It offered a critical examination of race in society—as well as a look into Black society most white readers were unfamiliar with at the time. Today, the novel is just as moving as when it was originally published, an excellent choice for readers of Charles W. Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars and Nella Larsen’s Passing.

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