The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

  • I

  • Ex-colored Man

    I know that in writing the following pages I am divulging the great secret of my life, the secret which for some years I have guarded far more carefully than any of my earthly possessions;

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  • and it is a curious study to me to analyze the motives which prompt me to do it.

  • I feel that I am led by the same impulse which forces the un-found-out criminal to take somebody into his confidence, although he knows that the act is likely, even almost certain, to lead to his undoing.

  • I know that I am playing with fire, and I feel the thrill which accompanies that most fascinating pastime;

  • and, back of it all, I think I find a sort of savage and diabolical desire to gather up all the little tragedies of my life, and turn them into a practical joke on society.

  • And, too, I suffer a vague feeling of unsatisfaction, of regret, of almost remorse, from which I am seeking relief, and of which I shall speak in the last paragraph of this account.

  • Ex-colored Man

    I was born in a little town of Georgia a few years after the close of the Civil War.

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  • I shall not mention the name of the town, because there are people still living there who could be connected with this narrative.

  • I have only a faint recollection of the place of my birth.

  • At times I can close my eyes and call up in a dreamlike way things that seem to have happened ages ago in some other world.

  • I can see in this half vision a little houseβ€”

  • I am quite sure it was not a large oneβ€”

  • Ex-colored Man

    I can remember that flowers grew in the front yard, and that around each bed of flowers was a hedge of vari-colored glass bottles stuck in the ground neck down.

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  • I remember that once, while playing around in the sand, I became curious to know whether or not the bottles grew as the flowers did, and I proceeded to dig them up to find out;

  • the investigation brought me a terrific spanking, which indelibly fixed the incident in my mind.

  • I can remember, too, that behind the house was a shed under which stood two or three wooden wash-tubs.

  • These tubs were the earliest aversion of my life, for regularly on certain evenings I was plunged into one of them and scrubbed until my skin ached.

  • I can remember to this day the pain caused by the strong, rank soap's getting into my eyes.

  • Ex-colored Man

    Back from the house a vegetable garden ran, perhaps seventy-five or one hundred feet;

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