The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

by James Weldon Johnson

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Overview

One of the most prominent African-Americans of his time, James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) was a successful lawyer, educator, social reformer, songwriter, and critic. But it was as a poet and novelist that he achieved lasting fame.
Among his most famous works, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man in many ways parallels Johnson's own remarkable life. First published in 1912, the novel relates, through an anonymous narrator, events in the life of an American of mixed ethnicity whose exceptional abilities and ambiguous appearance allow him unusual social mobility — from the rural South to the urban North and eventually to Europe.
A radical departure from earlier books by black authors, this pioneering work not only probes the psychological aspects of "passing for white" but also examines the American caste and class system. The human drama is powerful and revealing — from the narrator's persistent battles with personal demons to his firsthand observations of a Southern lynching and the mingling of races in New York's bohemian atmosphere at the turn of the century.
Revolutionary for its time, the Autobiography remains both an unrivaled example of black expression and a major contribution to American literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486285122
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 05/10/1995
Series: Dover Thrift Editions
Edition description: Unabridged
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 236,758
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)
Age Range: 14 Years

About the Author

James Weldon Johnson (June 17, 1871 - June 26, 1938) was an American author and civil rights activist. He was married to civil rights activist Grace Nail Johnson. Johnson was a leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where he started working in 1917. In 1920, he was the first African American to be chosen as executive secretary of the organization, effectively the operating officer.[1] He served in that position from 1920 to 1930. Johnson established his reputation as a writer, and was known during the Harlem Renaissance for his poems, novels, and anthologies collecting both poems and spirituals of black culture.
He was appointed under President Theodore Roosevelt as US consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua for most of the period from 1906 to 1913. In 1934 he was the first African-American professor to be hired at New York University.[2] Later in life, he was a professor of creative literature and writing at Fisk University, a historically black university.
Johnson was born in 1871 in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Helen Louise Dillet, a native of Nassau, Bahamas, and James Johnson. His maternal great-grandmother, Hester Argo, had escaped from Saint-Domingue (today Haiti) during the revolutionary upheaval in 1802, along with her three young children, including James' grandfather Stephen Dillet (1797-1880). Although originally headed to Cuba, their boat was intercepted by privateers and they were taken to Nassau, where they permanently settled. In 1833 Stephen Dillet became the first man of color to win election to the Bahamian legislature (ref: James Weldon Johnson, Along This Way, his autobiography).[3]
James' brother was John Rosamond Johnson, who became a composer. The boys were first educated by their mother, a musician and a public school teacher, before attending Edwin M. Stanton School. Their mother imparted to them her great love and knowledge of English literature and the European tradition in music.[1] At the age of 16, Johnson enrolled at Atlanta University, a historically black college, from which he graduated in 1894. In addition to his studies for the bachelor's degree, he also completed some graduate coursework

Table of Contents

Introduction Suggestions for Further Reading A Note on the Text Preface to the Original Edition of 1912

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN EX-COLORED MAN

Explanatory Notes

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