Johnson's The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man: Reflection of 'Lynching' and 'Passing' as Strategies


  • Dr. Rajendra Prasad Bhatt Associate Professor, Far Western University, Mahendranagar, Kanchanpur, Nepal



Afro-Americans, Lynching, Mulatto, Passing, Race Identity


This paper explores the strategic use of 'lynching' and 'passing' in African American society through the examination of James Weldon Johnson's The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. It argues that 'lynching' is a strategy applied by Whites to keep Blacks under control and similarly, 'passing' is a strategy used by light skinned Blacks to attain social and economic benefits, which are generally available to white people. To show the fact that people of color in the US are trapped between two cultures, identities, and lives, this paper highlights the unnamed narrator's decision to pass for White by relinquishing his black identity for the conveniences and supremacy that the white identity entails. Applying the approach of textual analysis, the present paper aims at investigating how the issues of 'lynching' and 'passing' are portrayed in literary writing. It demonstrates that, due to unfavorable socio-cultural circumstances and the threat of being lynched, the unnamed protagonist of the novel passes for white as early as his childhood years. Although the unnamed narrator desires to liberate himself from the decisiveness of preestablished categories like race, the experience of passing is heterogeneous and differently constructed and operated in the narrative. The narrator takes the least troubled path and declares his passing for white at the end of the novel.



2022-10-08 — Updated on 2022-10-08


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How to Cite

Bhatt, R. P. (2022). Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man: Reflection of ’Lynching’ and ’Passing’ as Strategies. Pakistan Social Sciences Review, 6(4), 11–18.