A review by declan789654
The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man by James Weldon Johnson, Arna Bontemps


Picked up this book following a reddit thread of 'Top 50 novels under 200 pages', I knew nothing about James Weldon Johnson before starting.

A well written book regarding the life of a black man, passable as white, with the experiences he goes through during his teens-early 20s then his much later life. There are varying points in which race is debated in his experiences but he has the privilege of not having to make the decision to stand up for his beliefs. (Privilege in this sense is spoken in regards to the luxury of silence given to a 'white' person in any situation regarding race). Two parts of the book, you'll know when you have read them, give a deeper insight into the harsh reality into the violence of the American South during the early 20th century and were slightly troublesome to read.

His tours around Europe give a feeling of beauty in the reminder that music is a universal language loved from all - thus holding true the importance earlier in the book of learning a trade to help you travel, albeit not the one he planned to have learnt. I greatly enjoyed the ending, through his realisation that sometimes you don't appreciate or notice a chance situation which has favoured you well at the time, rather than the easy option he made for his children. No one has the right to judge him for this, you never know what you would do in the situation and protection of family would always be at the forefront of peoples minds.