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“The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man”: Book Review


The emergence of racial differences presents a scope to investigate the nineteenth-century indications of African American male liberty and citizenship. The torture and abuse of the black parties reveal the widespread hypothesis about similarities and cultural regimes. This research about The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man reviews and investigates the complexities of racial identification. The narrator, born in Georgia, describes his boyhood experience in Connecticut. The author’s mixed-race mother worked under continuous supervision from the writer’s white father, which presents a “secure social environment” (Dale 103). Discovering his black culture simply by chance, the narrator experiences the first of many personalities that finds him choosing to associate in white society. Under the support of a prosperous white man associate, the European drama raises the topic concerning generative uniqueness, yet the fiction never addresses this argument explicitly. In his story, Johnson engages characters, regions, episodes, and themes from his biography: but, the protagonist is not an intelligent example as the narrator expected. He seems to struggle to connect to his identity and decide whether he is black or white. Instead, he uses his ambivalent appearance to adjust to various life situations.

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The Split Between Black and White Americans

The mixed-race narrator of James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man leads to drive back and forth between the rigidly divided lives of white and black Americans at the shift of the twentieth century. The narrator recognizes that judicial liberation cannot promote the possibilities obtainable to black Americans without a comprehensive and maintainable difference in white discriminatory stances. Even though this sense of prejudice and bias is relatively uncontroversial now, it was a fundamental interference in public discussions about culture when Johnson published his book. At the moment, African-American governments are focused on the puzzle of whether the Blacks should strive to enhance their status within an inequitable civilization and “obtain esteem from whites or oblige civic justice as human beings” (Dale 105). Essentially, the author’s capacity to steer both black and white Americans further reveals how the definite racial classes that proceed to form American history are doubtful cultural conceptions.

Unlike in captivity, where discrimination of black lives is high, and white Americans live in secure areas, the status had changed by the crossing of the twentieth-century era. The planet split into two uneven civilizations, and racism progressed in black residents’ suspension from white establishments that granted financial fitness, cultural influence, and legislative authority. However, in the raconteur’s notably mixed boyhood city in Connecticut, race remains a critical separating structure. He stares down at his black colleagues until the instructor explicitly separates the black and white scholars, and he understands he is influenced by this issue.

The Antagonism and Domination of Communities

When he shifts from Connecticut to Atlanta, the story focuses on how the black community appears to have acquired its personal, solely distinct civilization in the white-governed South. The author is incapable of patronizing white outfits and gets restricted to specific regions. Likewise, in New York City, the fiction’s black characters are mostly limited to a miniature and separated black area in mid-town Manhattan. As an effect of this disconnected system, the storyteller explains that white and black souls are defined to particular, countrified aspects and cannot understand the entire truth. For instance, the narrator explains that he lives because of his chances to turn back or move forward.

The narrator argues that separation comes from racism, suggesting attitudinal transformation is a vital ingredient of racial equity. He comes to this conclusion when he meets a person from Texas and a retired Union soldier. The two argue whether the Anglo-Saxon community deserves to rule over other cultures or whether alternatively separate racial associations in America should own similar possibilities and privileges. The Texan believes in several traditional outcomes for the Anglo-Saxons and announces he would preferably hold no land at all than have blacks commanding over him.

Benefitting from Both Sides

The author associates the relevant therapeutics needed to confirm this approach to the large perversions obliged to declare the Earth is the heart of the solar system. The writer maintains that white individual’s racism is created through or by contradictory customs concerning a given group of African-Americans. He also believes that the White domination is internalized between black Americans, particularly elites; for instance, the raconteur’s social snobbishness and ultimate choice to give up his skin color are sufficient evidence.

The narrator’s desire to benefit from both black and white reservations because he is racially ambivalent threatens the racial ideas in the White association. Perhaps, it comes from the assumption that culture can be rigorously confirmed and has remarkable natural reality. In other words, his life as a fellow who can qualify as both white and black demonstrates how ideas of culture and racialism grow ethically envisioned. The raconteur’s racial adaptability generates a handful of ironic flashes. As an example, when he separates himself from dark gentlemen or passes for white in provincial Georgia cities until attending the dark missionary’s residence.

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In Jacksonville, the narrator enters the cigar industry and studies Spanish so swiftly that he gets the position of presenting journals and books to the whole industry workforce. The explanation holds up the fictiveness of culture explicitly, claiming that the novel reveals the appearance of crossing to provide a bird’s-eye sense of the American race feud. Whether the author looks white or black, it relies on other characters’ expectations of him as well as the cultural setting. For example, when he performs music at the club, no one doubts his black excellence. However, when the narrator smokes a cigarette in a vehicle full of white people on his way to Atlanta, nobody disputes his whiteness.


Many doctrines and researches on racial sincerity and supremacy have comforted oppressive American traditions like servitude and imprisonment. However, James Weldon was justifying their arbitrariness and mechanisms in American experiences at a pivotal time. Weldon approached in a dialogue regarding racial balance and the means for obtaining it. The research shows that the main character is clearly confused about his identity and does not fully understand which community he has to support and classily himself with yet. Dale is confident in his conclusion that, although the protagonist’s intentions are pure most of the time, there are situations when he abuses his mixed nature, consciously or unconsciously. The man has yet to determine and develop his beliefs, attitudes, and parts of himself that are associated with either white or black culture. After all, race has no relation to being a decent human being, and at the end of the day, everyone should feel confident in their identity and be honest with themselves.

Work Cited

Dale, Isaih. “Psychological Distortions of Black Masculinity: an Exploration of Black Masculinities in Imperium in Imperio, the Autobiography of an Ex-colored Man, and Native Son”. 2020, University of Wyoming, Department of English.

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