Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man in Wisconsin (2021-22)

During the 2021-2022 Great World Texts in Wisconsin program, high school teachers and students throughout the state will read and engage with James Weldon Johnson’s 1912 novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Known only as the “Ex-Colored Man,” the protagonist in Johnson’s novel is forced to choose between celebrating his African American heritage or “passing” as an average white man in a post-Reconstruction America that is rapidly changing. If you have questions, please contact

Virtual Conference, “GWT Month”

From March 14 to April 4, 2022, participating schools will be sharing student projects created in response to James Weldon Johnson’s novel during virtual GWT Month! We will be archiving these projects here on our digital conference program and archive, as well as highlighting outstanding projects on our weekly newsletter during this three-week period. Follow the fun on Twitter and Youtube with #excoloredwi, and engage with students who have worked so hard this year despite enormous life challenges. Our student conference will culminate with a virtual lecture with scholar Jacqueline Goldsby on Monday April 4 from 11am-noon CT, featuring questions from our participating students! All schools are now welcome to register for this live event, and we will aim to capture a recording for those classrooms unable to attend the synchronous session.

Program Events and Resources

Teachers participating in the program received the “Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man in Wisconsin” curricular guide and supporting materials. They attended a virtual educator colloquium on August 30, 2021, featuring talks by campus experts, workshopping activities and discussions, and cultural and curricular presentations. Our participating educators and students will participate in a virtual conference from March 14 – April 4, 2022 to share student projects created in response to the novel, and meet scholar Jacqueline Goldsby.

All teachers, present and future, are welcome to download the curricular guide and supporting materials to use in their classrooms, available below.

We will be using the Norton Critical Edition of James Weldon Johnson novel, published in 2015 and edited by Jacqueline Goldsby. An e-book of the novel, which is out of copyright, is available at Project Gutenberg, and a public domain audiobook is available at Librivox.

Educator’s Guide

Guide Handouts

Participating Schools Receive:

  • The opportunity to bring a challenging work of world literature to life in your classrooms and to work across disciplinary boundaries with educators at your school.
  • A classroom set of the text (Norton Critical Edition) for your school’s permanent collection.
  • A curriculum guide, “Teaching James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man.” The guide contains contextual and lecture materials, suggested readings, close reading and discussion activities, handouts, and suggestions for student projects. Our teaching guide is designed to make the text accessible for a range of learners and grade levels, and is customizable to meet the needs of your classroom and students.
  • A professional development colloquium on August 30, 2021, and year-round support.
  • The opportunity to bring your students to UW-Madison for a full-day conference in March/April 2022 (date tbd) where they will present their work, engage with other students from around the state, and meet scholar and editor Jacqueline Goldsby in person.
  • A stipend that funds your school’s participation in the program. These funds can be used to offset the costs of substitute teachers and travel to Madison for the student conference.

Keynote Speaker

Jacqueline Goldsby is the editor of the Norton Critical Edition of The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. She is a professor of English and African American Studies at Yale University.

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2021-2022 Participating Schools

In 2021-22, 21 schools from across Wisconsin will engage with James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man.

  • Arrowhead Union High School
  • Bay Port High School
  • Cristo Rey Jesuit High School Milwaukee
  • Étude High School
  • Kewaunee High School
  • La Follette High School
  • Lake Mills High School
  • Milwaukee High School of the Arts
  • Necedah High School
  • New Berlin West Middle/High School
  • New Horizons Charter School
  • Oshkosh North High School
  • Oshkosh West High School
  • Osseo-Fairchild High School
  • Rock University High School
  • School of Options and Applied Research High School (SOAR)
  • Southern Door High School
  • Whitehall Memorial High School
  • Whitnall High School
  • Xavier Catholic High School