Questions for James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912):

  1. Why does Johnson call this text an autobiography when it is, in fact, a novel?
  2. What do you make of Johnson’s original title for this novel, “The Chameleon”?
  3. What is the role of music in the protagonist’s life? How does it shape his identity, especially his racial identity?
  4. How is the protagonist shaped by his childhood experiences? 
  5. What is the role of chance in the novel?
  6. How does Johnson hearken to earlier African-American genres such as the slave narrative?
  7. How would you characterize the relationship between the protagonist and the white millionaire?
  8. Do you think the protagonist has “sold out” by deciding to live as a white man? Why or why not?