The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

by James Weldon Johnson

The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

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.”
  • Year Published: 1912
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: United States of America
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 9.0
  • Word Count: 53,408
  • Genre: Realism
  • Keywords: 20th century literature, african american literature, american literature
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