Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man Book Review

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Kevin Rance

HIST3102 Pratt

8 September 2011

The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man Book Review

The novel, The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man by James Weldon Johnson shows a story of a man with mixed blood of white and coloured. Throughout the story, the man is conflicted with his heritage, sometimes accepting his coloured heritage and at other times rejecting his coloured heritage and passing himself off as a white man. The main character travels all around the United States and Europe while observing how whites and coloureds behave separately and with each other. The nameless man goes through tough times and prosperous times his whole life and comes out with quite a few revelations.

The two themes that are very evident in this novel are race relations and identity. This novel is set in the time period of a few years after the civil war, and as such the United States is trying to decide what the roles of the newly freed coloureds will be. The nameless man, throughout the course of the novel, lives life as a coloured man and white man both in the north and south. Due to those experiences, he has observed racial issues from a variety of perspectives. The man, brought up mostly among whites, sets out around the country to study the coloureds and share what he learns with his readers. He shows this by stating that, “it is a difficult thing for a white man to learn what a coloured man really thinks …” and “I believe it to be a fact that the coloured people of this country know and understand the white people better than the white people know and understand them. In chapter five, he divides the coloureds into three categories based on their interactions with the white men: the desperate class, the working-class servants, and middle and upper classes. The lower class or the “desperate class,” as the narrator calls them, “carry the entire weight of the race question.” In chapter nine, during an intense discussion of future racial...
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