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The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man: With an Introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Paperback – Dec 17 1989
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With the possible exceptions of Dr. Alain Locke and W.E.B. Du Bois, no African American excelled on as many different levels as James Weldon Johnson. Along This Way--the first autobiography by a person of color to be reviewed in The New York Times--not only chronicles his life as an educator, lawyer, diplomat, newspaper editor, lyricist, poet, essayist, and political activist but also outlines the trials and triumphs of African Americans from post-Reconstruction to the rise and fall of the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Florida in 1871 to middle-class West Indian parents, Johnson recognized the challenges and absurdities of segregated America early on. But it was his experience as a tutor to rural blacks while a student at Atlanta University that was to alter the course of his life: "It was this period that marked the beginning of psychological change from boyhood to manhood," he writes. "It was this period that marked also the beginning of my knowledge of my own people as a race."
With a rare blend of pride and humility, Johnson recounts how he, among other accomplishments, became Florida's first black lawyer in 1898, a diplomat in Venezuela and Nicaragua, and lyricist for his brother Rosamond Johnson's famous song, "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Johnson's commentary on his epochal novel, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, as well as writings on his works of poetry--The Creation, God's Trombones, and Fifty Years and Other Poems--is priceless. Equally important are the logical and even-tempered opinions on race that he wrote for The New York Age, which offered comprehensive critiques of Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and Marcus Garvey, along with his analysis of the racial climate while serving as head of the NAACP. This remarkable man left a mark on the 20th century that goes beyond the boundary of race. --Eugene Holley Jr. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Library Journal
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. Reader Allen Gilmore contributes a fine reading. Recommended, with hopes for an unabridged edition in the future.?Sandy Glover, West Linn P.L., Ore.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
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I KNOW THAT IN WRITING THE FOLLOWING PAGES I AM divulging the great secret of my life, the secret which for some years I have guarded far more carefully than any of my earthly possessions; and it is a curious study to me to analyse the motives which prompt me to do it. Read the first page
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Top Customer Reviews
But, he is stunned when one day in school a teacher asks the white students to stand, and scolds him when he joins them. He confronts his fair skinned mother and she reveals that she is indeed black and his father is a white Southern gentleman. His father later comes to visit, and even buys him a piano, but the child is unable to approach and deal with him.
As a young man, the death of his mother & sale of their house leaves him with a small stake & he determines to attend college. Though qualified, he rules out Harvard for financial reasons & heads back down South to attend Atlanta University. However, his stake is stolen from his boarding house room before he can register & he ends up with a job in a cigar factory.
When the factory closes, he heads North again, this time to New York City and discovers Ragtime music and shooting craps, excelling at the one & nearing ruin in the other. A white gentleman who has heard him play enters into an exclusive agreement to have him play at parties & subsequently takes him along on a tour of Europe.
Inevitably, he is drawn back to America and to music. He tours the South collecting musical knowledge so that he will be able to compose a uniquely American and Black music. But his idyll is shattered when he sees a white lynch mob burn a black man.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I absolutely loved reading this book, and would eagerly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn of Johnson's America through the eyes of a man caught between two worlds. Read morePublished on March 11 2004 by Ogyabooks
James Weldon Johnson was a man of many firsts. For me, this book was also a first. It was the first time that I had ever sat down with a book and not wanted to get up. Read morePublished on Jan. 30 2002 by Sloth Moore
James Weldon creates a story line of unimaginable magnitude! This complex book makes the reader almost sympathetic for a character who may not deserve it!Published on Oct. 1 2001 by Amazon Customer
For a book which was first published in 1912, this is an amazingly relevant work for today. Johnson's novel (hidden in the form of an autobiography) graphically looks at relations... Read morePublished on July 18 2001
This book made me want to run to the bathroom with my hands covering my mouth. The plot is absurd, and epitomizes mediocre literature. Read morePublished on May 15 2000 by Bandit 1981
I thought this book was great. The writing was good and the story was good, and what else can I say? It gives you insight into life. He's a good storyteller.Published on April 19 2000
Johnson's novel travels through various African-American societies (New England, Jacksonville, New York City, the Black Belt) in a story of a mulatto caught between two opposing... Read morePublished on Feb. 24 2000 by D.J. Smith
This work is a truly great study of racial identity, showing that the lines of race are drawn more by culture than biology. Highly recommended reading! Read morePublished on Oct. 27 1999
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