Biography and Critical Analysis of James Weldon Johnson and his work "The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man"

Essay by bravebb19High School, 12th gradeA, November 2003

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For decades blacks in America have been suppressed much like a flame being smothered in order to extinguish it, but unlike fire, the spirits and souls of blacks have never stopped burning. Blacks have been physically abused by society through lynchings, burnings, and other acts of violence and have been emotionally abused through slurs, organized protest such as ones held by the Ku Klux Klan, and other forms of racism. Although our forefathers stated when they declared our independence, "that all men are created equal," and, "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights", blacks have found themselves denied the right to live, the right of liberty in its entirety, and have had their pursuit of happiness blocked. Blacks have found themselves having to fight for amendments in order to secure their civil liberties, although the constitution also claimed that all were created equal. Yet through the abuse and suppression, the black spirit has always found a way to triumph.

In James Weldon Johnson's novel Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, written anonymously, James Weldon writes of a bi-racial man who lives the horrible life of a black man. After changing races, he realizes that he was freer when he was black because his sprit and mind triumphed, but his realization came too late. James Weldon Johnson, a novelist, poet, and lyricist, wrote The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man in order to show how the black soul triumphs through the eyes of an individual who lives both sides.

James Weldon Johnson's life models the triumph expressed in The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. He was born James William Johnson, which he later changed to Weldon in 1913, in Jacksonville, Florida during the year 1871 (Nelson). He lived a rough childhood being fathered by a waiter, who shared...