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He would play until the white gentleman would say "that will do." The Ex-Colored man would tire after the long hours but would continue playing as he saw the joy and serenity he brought the white gentleman.The white gentleman frequently "loaned" the Ex-Colored Man out to other people to play at their parties.
After the narrator's mother dies, he becomes a poor orphan and subject to harsh conditions.
He adapted very well to life with lower-class blacks and was able to move easily among the classes of black society.
During this carefree period, he taught music and attended church, where he came in contact with upper-class blacks.
Living in an all black community, he discovers and describes three classes of blacks: the desperate, the domestics, and the independent workmen or professionals.
It is through his attendance at this school that the narrator first realizes he is African-American and thus subject to ridicule and mistreatment for his racial heritage.
This "discovery" occurs when he is publicly corrected by his teacher and the headmaster when he stands when "the white scholars" (schoolchildren) are asked to stand.
He lives through a variety of experiences, including witnessing a lynching, that convince him to "pass" as white to secure his safety and advancement, but he feels as if he has given up his dream of "glorifying" the black race by composing ragtime music.
He decided to publish it anonymously because he was uncertain how the potentially controversial book would affect his diplomatic career.
The Ex-Colored Man believed the desperate class consists of poor blacks who loathe the whites.
The domestic worker class comprises blacks who work as servants to whites.