The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man

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The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man


Originally published anonymously in 1912, this 1927 edition of The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man was the first to credit James Weldon Johnson as the author. Written during the nascent period of the Harlem Renaissance, the fictional autobiography is narrated by the “Ex-Coloured Man.” Reflecting on a life between and within two racial identities, the narrator recounts his life as a black ragtime musician to his life spent passing as a white businessman. The narrator’s shift to a white identity was instigated by his witnessing of a violent lynching in the Reconstruction era South. Johnson’s detailed description of a lynching, although fictional, was one of the first novels to provide social commentary on systemic racism and mob law in the post-emancipation South. This is the first title that Arnold Grisham collected, sparking his interest in book collecting.


James Weldon Johnson


Garden City, NY: Garden City Publishing Co., Inc., 1927.




James Weldon Johnson, “The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man,” Grisham Bookshelf, accessed December 3, 2022,

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