The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
James Weldon Johnson
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From the publisher
First published anonymously in 1912, this resolutely unsentimental novel gave many white readers their first glimpse of the double standards - and double consciousness - experienced by 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-Colored Man became a pioneering document of African-American culture and 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-Colored Man 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 colour.