The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man - By James Weldon Johnson - African American Studies. 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.Johnson originally wrote The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man anonymously in 1912 by the small New York publisher Sherman, French, and Company. His 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. The book's initial public reception was poor. It was republished in 1927 by Alfred A. Knopf, an influential firm that published many Harlem Renaissance writers. This time Johnson was credited as the author. Though the title suggests otherwise, the book is not an autobiography but a novel. However, the book is based on the lives of people Johnson knew and from events in his own life. Johnson's text is an example of a roman a clef .