The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man

by James Weldon Johnson

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Who is the protaganist of The Autobiography of an Ex-coloured Man?  

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The protagonist is the hero of the story, or the person the story focuses on.  In this case, the narrator is the protagonist.  We do not know his name.  The reason the narrator does not tell his name is that he is a “coloured man” whose light skin allows him to “pass” as white.  He does not want people to know who he really is, because it would hurt friends and family members close to him, so he does not tell his real name. 

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…. (ch 1)

The narrator is mixed-race.  He is obsessed with race, because he is living a secret lie.  If he revealed his race, he would suffer discrimination.  He looks white.  His father was white and his mother was black.  He does not know his father’s name, and barely knows who he is.  He visits occasionally, but only when the narrator is young.  He grows up in the northern United States, where race is not as much of an issue as in the south.   When he travels to Europe, he is interested to see that race is also not much of an issue.


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