Zora Neal Hurston was the daughter of a Baptist Preacher born in Alabama on January 7, 1891 only 26 years after slavery was abolished. When she was three her father moved their family to Eatonville Florida. Eatonville was the first incorporated black community in America, a place that Zora held as the black utopia. Zora was able to receive an education and earned her B. A. in Anthropology from Columbia University in 1928 (Zora).
Her father was the mayor of Eatonville which allotted her opportunities that many other blacks did not have, but that is not to say that being the daughter of a black mayor from a black town made things easy for her. Zora eventually became an accomplished novelist and folklorist as well as an authority on black culture from the Harlem Renaissance (Zora). Her greatest novel was that of Their Eyes Are Watching God, however when the book was released in 1937 it was criticized by the black community as downplaying the hardships that blacks of that time had to endure at the hands of whites; subsequently the book was shelved and forgotten until the 1970's. Today because of a revival of her novel it is considered to be a modern literary canon (Verma). The town that Zora grew up in was a rural black community. Because her interaction with whites was very limited she did not have the constant contrast or knowledge of being a minority.
As far as she was concerned she was no different, or at least she held the same value as everyone else. It was not until she was sent to school in Jacksonville Florida that she actually realized her diversity, or as she put in her short story "To be Colored Me", "the very day that I became colored " (Hurston). When she arrived in Jacksonville it was the first time that she had such a great contrast of her color to that of the larger of society. "I was not Zora of Orange County any more; I was now a little colored girl.
I found it out in certain ways, in my heart as well as in the mirror" (Hurston). Zora was lucky however to have grown up in an all black community where she was not harassed for her color and looked down upon by others. As stated above she was not even aware of her color until she went to a major city where the majority of the population was white. To spite the difficulties that her color brought her she was able to get her education and make a name for herself. Her being black is why she was discriminated against and it was this discrimination that gave her the most influence for her writings that made her one of the most well known African American folklorist and novelist of hers' as well as our time.
Zora was able to overcome her hardships and turn them into something very positive, but as I mentioned before what she had to say was not always welcomed by the black community. I do not feel that her story "There eyes are watching God" trivialized the black struggle in any way. It was Zoras' bright outlook and positive attitude that let her get to where she did. Zora recognized the atrocities that where committed by the whites against the blacks but she was not going to let these ignorant people keep her down; she was going to hold her head up high in protest.
Her mother used to tell her to "jump at de sun, we might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground" (Zora). Zora was one of the special few African Americans that were able to make something out of themselves. The majority of the black population was unable to do this because of the repression they faced from the racist white majority. Much of the feelings towards blacks at that time stemmed from the days of slavery.
During slavery the blacks where subjected to the worst possible thing that could be done to any person, they where dehumanized. Dehumanization means that they where no longer looked at as people with emotions and a conscious, able to understand and know what is going on and feel bad about it. During the time of slavery slaves where dealt with as property just as animals where. Men where used as studs and mothers as a means to produce more slaves. A man could have many children with many women and the children where often taken from the mother and given to a wet nurse so to prevent attachment. Slaves where bought and sold at will and used for all sorts of labor and chores.
Due to slave owner mindset even following slavery there where beliefs that blacks where less than human, especially in the south. After a while however they where accepted as people, but they where viewed as lesser beings. As just two of many ways that they where treated as second class citizens blacks where forced to use different water fountains and restrooms. Even today there are racist people whom feel this way; some would even go so far as to say that they would support the reinstatement of slavery.
A lot has changed since Zoras' time; blacks are much less marginalized than they once where and the bulk of society accepts them as equals. Through desegregation and the civil rights act we as a human race have made great bounds in the direction of actually being good people. I find it very sad though that there are still groups such as the K. K.
K. , neo Nazis and the Arian brotherhood who feel as they do. Maybe it is wishful thinking but I think that one day we will be able to live as one human race of many different types of people; one day we will actually be separate but equal. In the words of the great Bob Marley "Is there a place for the hopeless sinner, who has hurt all mankind just to save his own beliefs? One Love." I believe very much in the sociological philosophy of pluralism, we are all different and that is beautiful but at the same time we are all the same and that is also beautiful. I do not think that I will ever see this in my life time, but hopefully one day it will happen and all races, religions and cultures can live as one. Work Cited Verma, Olivia.
"Classic Note on Their Eyes Were Watching God." . February 10, 2001. April 19, 2005 Zora Neale Hurston biography." Women in History. Created/Last modified: April 19 2005. Lakewood Public Library. Accessed: April 19 2005.
Hurston, Zora Neale. "How It Feels to Be Colored Me." Columbia. 1928. Columbia University. April 19, 2005.