The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man question


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Read the mixed reviews on Goodreads...Where do you stand on the book's quality?
V. Pain V. Jul 28, 2014 05:08PM
I'm shocked by the reviews I read, because I wanted to argue for James Weldon Johnson. Having the respect that I do for Johnson, I wanted to give my opinion and give true justice. As I read this book, I realize it doesn't contain magic, sex, scandal, or suspense. I am beginning to wonder if wizards and werewolves are perceived as the only exciting elements of storytelling. I am in the middle of the book, and not yet ready to rate it. I fear short, snappy reviews of this autobiography, may deter some misunderstood fellow from absorbing truths within its pages.
The most captivating portion of this book is that after a secure start, a certain veil was pulled from the author's eyes and he began to see differences. It wasn't just because of America's gross discrimination, or Jim Crow abuses-which were more than a nuisance- that those differences got Johnson's attention. It was that they'd finally affected him. Being the caring person that he was, and knowing no better, his young mind was not conditioned for pre-judging. So imagine the feeling when he first heard THE epithet, the N word, used... From that moment on, he begins to develop a philosophy on Blacks and being Black; and what that meant in early 1900's America. He refers to it as "The Negro question."
It is hard to talk about being an American at that time without explaining American popculture. He discusses the music of the day, the style of dress, and many of the characters he meets in his experiences. Not quite exciting details, but all the makings of a good story, no less. I see a story which is really about the least tangible portion of James Weldon Johnson, and his life... It's called cultural identity.
Beginning with no knowledge of being insufficient and, without race being a factor in his comfort or education; racism was literally foreign to him. The eye-opening for him, was worth reporting...
I see the value, I see the quality. I can also see that no one truly cares. Because they are still much like Johnson was before he began school and was called, "colored." They have not felt the Earth-shattering feeling of being sorted out solely by skin-tone.
Let's just face it, being American has two sides, Johnson gets to experience both! One is the privilege of never having to consider your race/ ethnicity before making a decision or even when looking back on tough times, or conflicts. The other, is the side of using separate washrooms, streetcars, etc. and a lack of job prospects; a clear sign that your quality of life has been affected. If you remain in the first category, and have never seen first hand what racism can do to a person (or a people); I can understand why you may not see a need for this particular work of art. However, if you have a friend, family member, endearing co-worker, etc. of minority or Black descent, this work will help you get a deeper look into being Black. Even being over 100 years old, this book is a reflection of the lifestyles and experiences of your ethnic friends. So just as ragtime and rap, faced the same challenges. Today's minorities, as well as the Blacks of Johnson's day, face some of the same challenges. I would suggest this book to social workers, public figures leading diverse groups, mothers raising Black or mixed race children. Knowing his beginning, can we do that for our sons? Remind them to be the best, without reminding them of their color. Letting them have no suspicion that someone may want to keep them down, and then just letting them grow, and cultivating them. Allowing confidence without fear, as a way to kill the inferiority that has hampered the growth of a people for centuries. I know there are some women out there who are not Black who are marrying into Black families, there are some men out there who are not Black who are expecting babies of Black mothers. They will all benefit from reading this work. It should be required reading for working with diverse groups. While it isn't a documentary, and isn't full of Coach purses and bitchslaps, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man is relevant and has already changed my life halfway through. After reading this book, you can refer to yourself as culturally aware.



I thought this was an interesting book. My classes read this as one of our books for last fall. I really listened to most of it on audio and found it to be interesting and thought provoking. Nothing but praise on this perspective.


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