The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson is the fictional telling of the story of a young biracial man, referred to only as the “Ex-Colored Man", living in post Reconstruction era America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Ex-Colored Man was forced to choose between embracing his black heritage and culture by expressing himself through the African-American musical genre ragtime, or by “passing” and living obscurely as a mediocre middle-class white man.
The Ex-Colored man living in an all black community discovered three classes of blacks; the desperate class, the domestic service class, and the independent workman.
Johnson originally wrote The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man anonymously in 1912 by the small New York publisher Sherman, French, and Company. Brandon's decision to publish the novel anonymously stemmed in part from his sense that signing his name to a potentially controversial book might damage his diplomatic career.