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Passing Into Diplomacy: U.S. Consul James Weldon Johnson and The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

Black Caribbean Literature (BCL)
Roberts,Brian Russell (Author)
Journal Article
Publication Date:
Summer, 2010
African American Research Center, Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject Term:
Authors, 20th century, African Americans, Latin America, Diplomacy, Literature, American, Johnson, James Weldon (1871-1938), The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), Passing
This essay focuses on James Weldon Johnson's overlapping literary and diplomatic careers. Johnson's novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, written while he worked as a US consul in Latin America, draws upon tropes of international representation to weigh in upon questions of aesthetic and racial representation. Tracing Johnson's transition from a US representative abroad to a race representative within the US, the essay argues that Johnson's case illustrates the importance of permitting the significant tradition of black work in the US's diplomatic program to inform the ways we approach African America's expressive and geopolitical engagements with the international world.