Excolored Man and Souls of Black Folk
The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson and The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois offer interesting contrasts of genre, style, and tone. Yet the power of the works individually is magnified in the intersection of the two -- the story of black life in America toward the beginning of the twentieth century. As they dare to dream of a harmoniously integrated cultural identity in this great country, Johnson and Du Bois have an important message for Americans, both black and white. This paper will examine the very different ways in which the authors present the problems and issues of a race newly emancipated, as well as the solutions suggested by each work. Though the main purpose here is not to retell the stories in full, summaries will be offered as a foundation for the main thrust of this effort. Given the scores of years that have passed since the writing of these two books, one might suppose that the message is less applicable today than when first written. One might assume that so much progress has been made in race relations that the works would seem quaint and dated. Sadly, such is not the case.
Souls of Black Folk - Fiction
The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man is a work of fiction. Though Johnson's tale reflects the talent and skill of an advanced wordsmith, the book is infinitely readable. And the story he tells is compelling. The reader's interest is piqued immediately when the author intimates that he is taking a great risk by writing his story. Some secret is obviously at issue. A brief summary of the story follows.