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The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
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The protagonist of this fictional autobiography wrestles with race in America from the perspective of someone who learns that he is considered black but also that he can pass as white if he wants to. His personal ambitiousness and racial ambivalence makes him a sort of American Hamlet: undone by indecision. Will he be “a credit to his race” by advancing an African-American heritage he loves and appreciates in the face of a hostile culture, or will he retreat into the mediocrity of a safe, white, middle-class family life?
Along the way, he shares his penetrating observations about race relations in the American north and south, about the “freemasonry” of subterranean black American culture, about the emerging bohemian jazz subculture in New York City, and about traditions of African American religious music and oratory.
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