James Weldon Johnson's The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man is a fictional, tragic tale about a young mulatto's coming-of-age in the early 20th century. The unnamed narrator, who has a black mother and white father, is light-skinned enough to pass for a white man but his emotional connections to his mother's heritage make him unable to fully embrace that world.
Source: Johnson, J.W. (1912) The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man Boston, Massachusetts: Sherman, French, and Co.
- The preface to the book.
- Chapter 1
- The narrator describes his early life at home with his mother.
- Chapter 2
- The Narrator reflects on his first day of school and understands the difference between the races and what they think of each other.
- Chapter 3
- The narrator reflects on his first exposure to Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
- Chapter 4
- The narrator describes his journey to Atlanta to attend school and the theft of his money when he gets there.
- Chapter 5
- The narrator finds a boarding house for “colored people” and becomes acquainted with the local black citizens.
- Chapter 6
- The narrator travels to New York City and describes ragtime music.
- Chapter 7
- The narrator describes “The Club.”
- Chapter 8
- The narrator is escorted into a small dark apartment where he is supposed to furnish musical entertainment for a small dinner party. He strikes up a friendly relationship with the host.
- Chapter 9
- The narrator leaves New York City and heads to Paris with his new friend. After spending a good deal of time together, they part company and the narrator heads for Boston.
- Chapter 10
- On the way to Boston, the narrator strikes up a conversation with another man regarding racial issues. Once in Boston, they continue to debate and discuss the social/racial problems of the day. The narrator comes upon several other interesting characters.
- Chapter 11
- The narrator reflects on his past and experiemce being a “white man.”
Johnson, J. (1912). The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. (Lit2Go ed.). Retrieved July 14, 2020, from
Johnson, James Weldon. The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Lit2Go Edition. 1912. Web. <>. July 14, 2020.
James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, Li2Go edition, (1912), accessed July 14, 2020,.