The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

A novel

Introduction by Henry Louis Gates
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Here is the groundbreaking classic novel of the Black experience in America, with an introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

First published anonymously in 1912, this novel gave many white readers their first glimpse of the double standard—and double consciousness—that ruled the lives of Black people in 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 emerged as a groundbreaking 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 color.
JAMES WELDON JOHNSON (1871–1938) was a novelist, poet, lawyer, editor,  ethnomusicologist, and coauthor of the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is informally known as the Black national anthem. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, he was educated at Atlanta University and at Columbia University and was the first Black lawyer admitted to the Florida bar. He was also, for a time, a songwriter in New York, American consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua, executive secretary of the NAACP, and professor of creative literature at Fisk University. His other books include an autobiography, Along This Way and God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. View titles by James Weldon Johnson
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About

Here is the groundbreaking classic novel of the Black experience in America, with an introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

First published anonymously in 1912, this novel gave many white readers their first glimpse of the double standard—and double consciousness—that ruled the lives of Black people in 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 emerged as a groundbreaking 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 color.

Author

JAMES WELDON JOHNSON (1871–1938) was a novelist, poet, lawyer, editor,  ethnomusicologist, and coauthor of the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is informally known as the Black national anthem. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, he was educated at Atlanta University and at Columbia University and was the first Black lawyer admitted to the Florida bar. He was also, for a time, a songwriter in New York, American consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua, executive secretary of the NAACP, and professor of creative literature at Fisk University. His other books include an autobiography, Along This Way and God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. View titles by James Weldon Johnson

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