The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

Preface to the Original 1912 Edition

This vivid and startlingly new picture of conditions brought about by

the race question in the United States makes no special plea for

the Negro, but shows in a dispassionate, though sympathetic, manner

conditions as they actually exist between the whites and blacks

to-day. Special pleas have already been made for and against the Negro

in hundreds of books, but in these books either his virtues or his

vices have been exaggerated. This is because writers, in nearly every

instance, have treated the colored American as a whole; each has

taken some one group of the race to prove his case. Not before has a

composite and proportionate presentation of the entire race, embracing

all of its various groups and elements, showing their relations with

each other and to the whites, been made.

It is very likely that the Negroes of the United States have a fairly

correct idea of what the white people of the country think of

them, for that opinion has for a long time been and is still being

constantly stated; but they are themselves more or less a sphinx to

the whites. It is curiously interesting and even vitally important

to know what are the thoughts of ten millions of them concerning the

people among whom they live. In these pages it is as though a veil had

been drawn aside: the reader is given a view of the inner life of the

Negro in America, is initiated into the "freemasonry," as it were, of

the race.

These pages also reveal the unsuspected fact that prejudice against

the Negro is exerting a pressure which, in New York and other large

cities where the opportunity is open, is actually and constantly

forcing an unascertainable number of fair-complexioned colored people

over into the white race.

In this book the reader is given a glimpse behind the scenes of this

race-drama which is being here enacted,--he is taken upon an elevation

where he can catch a bird's-eye view of the conflict which is being


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