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Ex Coloured Man Analysis Essay

When The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man was published in 1912, it received little critical attention. It was first published anonymously, but it was reissued under Johnson’s name in 1927, at the height of the Harlem Renaissance. In an introduction to the 1927 edition, Carl Van Vechten, a white critic who often wrote on African American themes, praised the novel as “a composite autobiography of the Negro race in the United States in modern times.” The book purported to be the actual life story of an African American living as a white. The work, however, is not the actual autobiography of James Weldon Johnson, although the narrator’s life parallels his own in several respects, especially in his love for literature and music and his fondness for New York and Paris. Johnson had spent much time in New York, visiting the city as a youth and working as a young man; he had also traveled to Europe as a part of a musical group. To allay any lingering suspicions that the The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man might, in fact, be his life story, Johnson later wrote an actual autobiography, Along This Way (1934).

In The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, Johnson utilizes some of the techniques of the slave narrative, the predecessor of the African American novel and a popular form of nineteenth century literature. Johnson’s use of the first-person narrator, a stock element of the slave narrative, is an innovation in...

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The Autobiography of the Ex-Colored Man: The Ability to Pass Essay

1120 Words5 Pages

The Autobiography of the Ex-Colored Man: The Ability to Pass The Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man depicts the narrator as a liminal character. Beginning with an oblivious knowledge of race as a child, and which racial group he belonged, to his well knowing of “white” and “black” and the ability to pass as both. On the account of liminality, the narrator is presenting himself as an outsider. Because he is both a “white” and “black” male, he does not fit in with either racial group. In the autobiography of an Ex-colored man, James Weldon Johnson uses double consciousness to show the narrators stance as a person that gives up his birthright for the “privilege of whiteness”.
Beginning from when the narrator was a little boy, being…show more content…

“A great wave of humiliation and shame swept over me. Shame that I belonged to a race that could be so dealt with; and shame for my country, that it, the great example of democracy to the world, should be the only civilized, if not the only state on earth, where a human being would be burned alive.”(137) Because of that day, the narrator made a decision that he felt was best for him at the time, which was to let the world make their own perception of him. “I argued that to forsake one’s race to better one’s condition was no less worthy an action than to forsake one’s country for the same purpose. I finally made up my mind that I would neither disclaim the black race nor claim the white race; but that I would change my name, raise a mustache, and let the world take me for what it would; that it was not necessary for me to go about with the label of inferiority pasted across my forehead.” (139) In the narrative, it is conclusive; the narrator’s adult life is considered a performance. Due to the fact he is a man of multiple race, it is hard to determine which lifestyle is the performance, and which lifestyle comes natural to him. The narrator has various connections to the “white” and/or “black” world. As a child, the narrator was friends with both “shiny” who was a black boy and “red head” whom was white. Both where considered his best friends even after the day he found out he was

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