The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man


TheAutobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

“TheAutobiography of an Ex-Colored Man”

Thebook is a narration by an unnamed narrator who exposes the level ofambivalence that faced him because of his origin. He was born of ablack mother and a white father, making him a light skinned black manin search of racial identity (Rottenberg,2004).The reality of racism faces him at school and when he interacts withboth the white and black communities.


Ifa movie could be done on the autobiography, more appropriate titlewould be “Exploring the Black Color.” This title would be themost appropriate because it would reflect the struggle that thenarrator had to undergo to understand his identity as a black and asa white. The title would take the name “Exploring” instead of thename “Understanding” because the narrator seems not to understandhis racial identify as the whole novel portrays his ambivalence inhis life. Therefore, he would just be exploring his life, yet helargely identifies with the identity of his black mother.

Tosetup the movie for an international audience, the most appropriateway to begin with is to describe the rift that existed in the UnitedStates between the blacks and the whites. It would be wise to remindthe audience about slavery by showing scenes of slaves being workedup and beaten by white masters. This will set up the audience tounderstand the experiences of the narrator in the post slavery timesthat the book is based on.

Thefirst scene in the movie would be the one where the mother puts acoin in the narrator’s neck, to show the start of his endlessjourney (Johnson, 1912). This would be followed by the scene of thejourney to Connecticut through which the introductory narration wouldbe made. It is in this scene that the narrator would introduce allbackground information about his earlier life. The third scene wouldbe when the narrator was playing ragtime, to show his love for musicas a way of avoiding the ambivalence in his life.


Mostof the writers express black &quotAfricanAmerican art&quot as a specific type of art that expresses thesentiments and life dynamics of the African American community.Hughes acknowledges the distinct nature of the African American artand describes it as a unique element that strengthens the blackpeople.W.E.B. Dubois describes the art as a piece of beautiful workfrom black people, just as from other folks in the community (DuBois, 1926).However, he recognizes the uniqueness of the art of black people.

Onthe other hand, Alain Locke describes the art as the inspiration ofthe Africans and the African American community (Locke,1988).Due to this belief, he supported black artists to advance the art. Heaffirms the take on the other writers that &quotAfrican Americanart&quot is important for the advancement of the blacks as a raceand portrays their uniqueness among other races.

Hughesand Schuler disagree on the existence of the African American art.According to Hughes (1926), there is the type of art that defines theAfrican American black culture and way of behavior. However, Schulerargues that there is nothing like the specificity of the art with atithe “African American art.” He stated that if there is anythinglike it, as he termed it “hokum,”then it is nonsense, untrue or just something meaningless (Schuyler,1926).For Schuler, the specific art called &quotAfricanAmerican art&quot isjust part of the American art.

Basedon “TheAutobiography of an Ex-Colored Man,” Johnsonwould agree with. This is because Johnson presents a narrator whouses music as a way of showing his identity as a black. In addition,the mother of the narrator encourages him to adopt music as part ofhis life. Despite performing for the whites, the narrator shows theimportance of art and music to the black American culture.


DuBois,W.E. B. (1926). &quotCriteriaof Negro Art,&quotTheCrisis.32 (October 1926).290-297

Hughes,L. (1926). “TheNegro Artist and the Racial Mountain” TheNation. N.p, 16 June 1926.

Johnson,J.W. (1912) TheAutobiography of an Ex-Colored Man Boston,Massachusetts: Sherman, French, and Co.

Rottenberg,C. (2004). Race and Ethnicity in &quotThe Autobiography of anEx-Colored Man&quot and &quotThe Rise of David Levinsky&quot: ThePerformative Difference. MELUS, Vol. 29, No. 3/4, pp. 307-321

Locke,A. L (1988). TheNegro and His Music: Negro Art: Past and Present.New York: Arno Press

Schuyler,G. (1926). “The Negro-Art Hokum” TheNation.N.p, 23 June 1926.