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The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

First published anonymously in 1912, this resolutely unsentimental novel gave many white readers their first glimpse of the double standard — and double consciousness — that ruled the lives of black people in modern America. Republished in 1927, at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, with an introduction by Carl Van Vechten, The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man became a groundbreaking document of Afro-American culture; the first first-person novel ever written by a black, it became an eloquent model for later novelists ranging from Zora Neale Hurston to Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison.

Narrated by a man whose light skin enables him to “pass” for white, the novel describes a journey through the strata of black society at the turn of the century — from a cigar factory in Jacksonville to an elite gambling club in New York, from genteel aristocrats to the musicians who hammered out the rhythms of ragtime. The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man by James Weldon Johnson is a complex and moving examination of the question of race and an unsparing look at what it meant to forge an identity as a man in a culture that recognized nothing but color.

Book Details

Publish Date: August 12, 2020
ISBN: 9781528718004
Language: English

About the Author

James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) was an American civil rights activist and writer. He led the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and was the first African-American professor at New York University. As a writer, Johnson was well-known in the Harlem Renaissance for his novels and poems which dealt primarily with black culture.

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