Essay on The Autobiography Of An Former Coloured Man By James Weldon Johnson

Essay on The Autobiography Of An Former Coloured Man By James Weldon Johnson

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James Weldon Johnson 's book, The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, describes the journey throughout the early and midlife of a man who bore both Negro and white blood.  He 's ethnicity wise African American but is able to "pass" in American Society as white due to his fair skin.  This book examines the question of race and provides insight on what it really meant to fake an identity as a man in a culture that recognized nothing but color. In The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, the protagonist, who is also the narrator, is never named.  In the beginning of the book he announces that he 's about to reveal "the great secret of [his] life" in hopes to analyze his motives for doing it and to also be relieved of this burden (pg. 1).  He begins the story of his life in a small town in the state of Georgia where he was born a few years after the end of the Civil War.  As a young boy, he lived with his mother in a decent home in this small town of Georgia.  Often they were visited by a tall white man with a small dark moustache.  Now at the time, the young boy didn 't know that this man was his father, and will find out years later.   One day, the boy and his mother abruptly moved to Connecticut where he would live the rest of his boyhood. Here is where his love for music and education began.  At around age five or so, he began playing the piano, influenced by his mother who could also play and sing.  At age nine he was enrolled in school, which had both black and white children.  His friends were mostly white because at the time he was not aware of his racial status and believed he was white. He realizes he is "coloured" when an incident at school forces him to question his ethnicity and his mother. A year or so after the inciden...


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...s can be viewed as his attempt to secretly integrate and represent the black and white halves of his heritage. The main idea of the novel is to show how race and the color of your skin affected the life you live during the post Civil War era.  The narrator is conflicted in side.  He wants to live as a white man and enjoys doing so, but still feels as though he has abandoned his true heritage and disgraced his mother 's blood.  At the beginning of the novel, the narrator compares himself to an "un-found-out criminal" could imply his guilt (pg.1).  If so, then the last sentence of the novel where he says, "I have sold my birthright for a mess of pottage", can be taken as a concise and hidden confession to his crime (p. 211).  As a final point, Johnson’s book is merely a novel in which the story of its narrator 's life is ultimately a plea of the reader 's understanding.

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Essay on The Autobiography Of An Former Coloured Man By James Weldon Johnson

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