The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

James Weldon Johnson's The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man is the fictional account of the life of a young American man in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. With his bi-racial heritage, the Ex-Colored Man is faced with the choice of embracing his black culture and its ragtime music, or passing as a white man and living a mediocre middle-class existence. While not actually an autobiography, Johnson based the book on his own life and the lives of people he knew.

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By Mike (Tuscaloosa, AL) · ★★★★☆ · February 04, 2013
The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man: James Weldon Johnson's novel of race and identity

"You are young, gifted, and Black. We must begin to tell our young, There's a world waiting for you, Yours is the quest that's just begun.--James Weldon Johnson

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James Weldon Johnson

Johnson lived an extraor... ...more
By Thomas (The United States) · ★★★☆☆ · December 18, 2014
3.5 stars

A story about an "Ex-Colored Man" who decides to pass as white after witnessing the lynching of a fellow black man. James Weldon Johnson details the unnamed Ex-Colored Man's coming of age, ranging from when he realizes his skin color matters, to when he plays ragtime music for a rich whi... ...more
By Eugenie · ★★★★☆ · October 21, 2014
Beautifully written but .........I may write a full review sometime. ...more
By Kati (Brighton, MA) · ★★★☆☆ · February 19, 2009
I loved the parts about his childhood, his mother, and his fascination with Shiny; his realizations about race--his races--are more powerful when he talks about how he understood (or didn't understand) them as a child. ...more
By Courtney (Cambridge, MA) · ★★☆☆☆ · July 16, 2009
After discussing the difference between what is considered a “good” novel and what is considered an “interesting” novel*, I have made the decision that this one is most certainly interesting, but not very good. Johnson presents race issues ranging from double-consciousness to passing (crossing th... ...more
By Andrew (Seattle, WA) · December 22, 2008
I found this book in the hallway of my apartment building. I generally enjoy books about race by black people, because (being a white man) I only really have access to one set of experiences with race, the "winning" side. Anti-racists will tell you that no one wins in a racist society, and fundam... ...more
By Tabitha (The United States) · ★★★★★ · March 05, 2012
I believe every child in the South should read this book as part of Southern history. We learned about the Civil War in school, and about Reconstruction. Depending upon the teacher you got, the middle of the nineteenth century was either required material, a glorious period in Southern history, o... ...more
By Luckngrace (Randleman, NC) · ★★★★★ · November 03, 2011
One of the most fascinating books I have ever read! This is the life and beliefs of a brilliant black man with white skin. It was written in the early 1900s and bespoke common sense and well thought-out theory. His mother tried to pass him as white the first several years of his life and he had n... ...more
By Lawanen (Iligan City, Philippines) · ★★☆☆☆ · December 05, 2008
Brilliant author! And of course a brilliant book! It is a refreshing take to the issue about the colored men and women in America. He steps into the situation as if he is just an observer, witnessing all the struggles and hindrances a black person has to endure because of his/her color. James We... ...more
By Ferrell (Eustace, TX) · ★★★★★ · December 31, 2013
This is a superb book, written by one of our great African American writers. It is written as if it were a first-person, non-fiction autobiography, but it is a novel. It displays great story-telling judgment, not wasting time on details that do not help convey the story. It is a quick read but a... ...more