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Extended Audio Sample The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, by James Weldon Johnson Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,500 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: James Weldon Johnson Narrator: Bill Andrew Quin Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man takes place in post Reconstruction era America and follows the story of a young biracial male. Johnson poses a complex dilemma: because the “Ex-Colored Man,” which is the only name by which the protagonist is referred, represents what, at the time was, a social contradiction of race and culture, he is forced to choose which aspect of his heritage to publicly express. His options are to embrace his black heritage and culture, or to pass as a white man cloaked in middle-class, mediocre obscurity. Johnson’s novel explores racial tensions in late nineteenth and early twentieth century culture through this poignant coming of age story.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Johnson’s theme of moral cowardice sets his tragic story of a mulatto in the United States above other sentimental narratives. The unnamed narrator, the offspring of a black mother and white father, tells of his coming-of-age at the beginning of the 20th century. Light-skinned enough to pass for white but emotionally tied to his mother’s heritage, he ends up a failure in his own eyes after he chooses to follow the easier path while witnessing a white mob set fire to a black man…Recommended.”

    Library Journal

  • “This remarkable man left a mark on the 20th century that goes beyond the boundary of race.” 

    Amazon.com, praise for the author

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Leslie | 2/18/2014

    " I've enjoyed putting this man 'on trial' when teaching this. Defenders, prosecutors, the whole nine... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Kelley | 2/15/2014

    " I didn't come away from this story with any particular admiration for Johnson, nor was it particularly well-told, but it was an interesting glimpse of a man trying to live to the highest standard he could in a society that begrudged him the right. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Olivia | 2/14/2014

    " I liked the author's voice but the events of his life weren't all that interesting. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Liz | 2/13/2014

    " I hated the narrator. He just went on and on about thinks I did not really care about. I liked it a lot more at the beginning but then it just got so boring and my teacher said the climax was during the tenth chapter but I honestly didn't even notice anything that happened at all. "

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About the Author
Author James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) was an American author, politician, diplomat, critic, journalist, poet, anthologist, educator, lawyer, songwriter, and early civil rights activist. James is remembered best for his leadership within the NAACP, as well as for his writing, which includes novels, poems, and collections of folklore. His most famous book is The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. He also published The Book of American Negro Spirituals, Black Manhattan, and Negro Americans, What Now? One of the first African American professors at New York University, James also served as a professor of creative literature and writing at Fisk University.