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Zora Neale Hurston Celebrating The Culture Of Black Americans

2144 words - 9 pages

Zora Neale Hurston - Celebrating the Culture of Black Americans

In her life and in her writings, Zora Neale Hurston, with the South and its traditions as her backdrop, celebrated the culture of black Americans, Negro love and pride with a feminine perspective that was uncommon and untapped in her time. While Hurston can be considered one of the greats of African-American literature, it’s only recently that interest in her has been revived after decades of neglect (Peacock 335). Sadly, Hurston’s life and Hurston’s writing didn’t receive notoriety until after her death in 1960.

Hurston’s upbringing was pivotal in her unique sense of identity and
culture. “Born in 1891, Hurston spent much of her childhood in Eatonville,
Florida” (Boyd 28). Hurston was born and raised in the first incorporated black
township in the United States. “Eatonville provided her with a sense of identity
and emotional health rare for a black American growing up at the turn of the
century” (Boyd 28). In the video Tell About the South, Hurston stated she lived
not in “the black back-side of an average town but a pure Negro town—charter,
mayor, council, town marshal and all.”

As a child, Hurston was sheltered from the realities of discrimination and
hatred against blacks. Author Mary E. Lyons explains: “Eatonville residents were
somewhat safe from lynchings and other racial violence, although Zora recalled
that the village did its best to teach her fear of white strangers” (11). Zora’s
childhood was filled with thriving community as well as isolation from the hatred and racism that lurked outside of the confines of Eatonville. “[Zora’s] early childhood was so free from discrimination that it took a trip to Jacksonville, with its segregated streetcars and ‘white people with funny ways,’ to make her know she was ‘a little colored girl’” (12-13).

Hurston eventually left the confines of familiarity of Eatonville, continuing
her education in Baltimore, Washington, DC and New York. Hurston earned a
high school diploma at Morgan Academy in Baltimore, Maryland. After Morgan,
Hurston went on to receive her associates degree from Howard University, the
institution she proudly called “the capstone of Negro education in the world”
(Witcover 42). “Zora funded her education at Howard University by working as a
maid and manicurist. Zora’s work as a maid for wealthy Black families in the city
and as a manicurist in a Washington D.C. proved to be as educational as
Howard University” (Zora Neale Hurston-The School District of Palm Beach
County, Florida, Internet). Following her time in Baltimore and Washington DC,
Zora went on to New York to obtain her bachelor’s degree in Anthropology at
Barnard College studying under Franz Boas. Boas was a German-born scholar
who worked against the trend, believing that all races shared the same potential.

Boas believed Hurston was an “exceptionally gifted woman” and encouraged her
to study...

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