THE LETTERS OF ZORA NEALE HURSTON Compiled by Andre Austin Another window into the eyes of Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) have made me love and hate her. She had a unique style of expressing herself. I’ve taken some sample letters from Editor Carla Kaplan’s Zora Neale Hurston: A life in Letters to give you a sample and taste of Zora’s creative power and wit. I loved Zora because she was like sugar in her stories but became **** when she expresses political social and economic views. On college campuses today they are promoting Zora Neale Hurston as the point person for the Harlem Renaissance without elaborating on her political, social and economic views or her dropped charges she molested a ten year old boy. So here are the highlights of the highlights. Contents: 1. Panties out in public & Yo’ Mama don’t wear no draws 2. Nickname W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963) “Dubious” meaning Doubtful to deflate and parody Dubois “Double conscious” thesis of Black people having to leave two lives under “Separate but Equal” Supreme Court case of Plessy vs Ferguson (1896). 3. Hurston’s response letter to Dubois wanting her to make a contribution to his encyclopedia Africana. She also writes a letter to Dubois about creating a Cemetery for famous Negroe Celebrities. Its ironic she dies without a tombstone and her middle name is misspelled on her death certificate as Neil. But everybody knows her name now. 4. Calling herself “Pet Darkey” a Pickaninny, views on the “Pet Negro system”, “Bama ******”, defending Carl Van Veghten novel “****** Heaven” and her calling herself a “Niggerati” but dares Langston Hughes to call her “******”. 5. Her disbelief that Dubois cited evidence that Alexander Hamilton had Negro blood in him or that the ancient Egyptian were black. She campaign against Harlem’s native hero Adam Clayton Powell for the Uncle Tom Grant Reynolds. 6. Her views on the 1954 Supreme Court decision were like you can’t court order and make the races mix. She also thought that Black people votes were childishly gullible. She favored Booker T. Washington over Dubois but the race riots in Detroit in 1943 convinced her of the false premise that the north loves blacks and the South is intolerant. The NAACP under Wilkins twisted her words to make it seem like “The Jim Crow system works”. 7. I will include various other miscellaneous, trivia antidotes. TO CARL VAN VEGHTEN Cheran, SC Aug 26, 1927 Dear Carl We rolled into this town tonight tired but happy. One or two mishaps on our run up from Charleston. 1. The car, known as Sassy Susie had a puncture on a front tire, repaired at Columbia, SC. 2. Somehow all the back of my skirt got torn away, so that my little panties were panting right out in public. I suppose this accident will be classed as more tire trouble. I have about 15 nice juicy songs to sing and I wish that Nora Holt Ray was there to assist. So sorry I missed you…” Yours sincerely Zora The last time Zora cracked me up about the topic of pannies was in Their Eyes Were Watching God: Yo’ Mama don’t wear no draws Ah seen her when she took’em Off She soaked em in alcohol She sold em tuh de Santy Claus He told her twas aginst de Law To wear dem dirty draws This short note to Veghten reminds me of Zora’s Autobiography book Dust tracks on a Road (1941), where she links up her excitement of finishing a book to the first time she saw her first pubic hair sprout out. She had to edit out all things offensive to whites like American imperialism. W.E.B Dubois wrote his Autobiography in 1940 called Dusk of Dawn TO JANE BELO 1940 Zora writes Jane congratulating her on finding love. Tells her she waits a wire from her like a “Cat watches a mouse hole”. Zora states that she find love too: “Well, to tell you the truth, Iam a little ‘Tetched’ which love myself, though it has gone beyond the palpitating stage. No commitments as yet”. **** this Zora is an original with her satires and adjectives on tis thang called Love. Zora worked with Jane Belo in studying religious trances in sanctified churches. Zora also studied Vodoo that also make use of trances to good or bad purposes. TO W.E.B. Dubois 1945 “Mary Mcleod Bethune…she has never uttered nor written a quotable line, never created any art form, nor even originated an educational idea. She has not even improved on any that have been originated” p520. Bethume (1875-1955) best known for starting a private school renamed in her name in the Daytona beach, Florida area. **** Zora just slapped her in the face with that remark TO FANNIE HURST Port Maria Jamaica, B. W.I 3rd July, 1936 Miss Fanny Hurst 23 West 67th Street, New York City. Dear Fanny Hurst: Thank you, Iam out here working very hard. It’s quite gorgeous. Iam hoping that you will join me as you said you would. There is plenty here for your note book. Do you know that they banned the showing of your Imitation of Life here? The shoe pinched too much. Love and appreciation. Zora Zora believed in art imitating life and used characters from Eatonville, Florida to write both novel Imitation of Life and Their Eyes Were Watching God. For example Joe Starks was Joe Clark the mayor of Eatonville, the first all-black incorporated city in America. Zora regretted writing Their Eyes Were Watching God and Cornel West said she made Black people look simple. I myself detected some of the humble and lack of self-consciousness and no sophistication. Zora was a fan of Booker T Washington who advocated being humble and compromising politics and voting from which Zora calls blacks “Childishly gullible”. TO W.E.B. DUBOIS Dr. W.E. B Dubois Atlanta University Atlanta, GA April 1936 Dear Dr. Dubois, I quite approve of your plans for the Encyclopedia Africana. Yes, I will contribute something if you will tell me what you wanted. By the way I wrote George. He seems to feel that you have lost him and he is unhappy about it. Pretty fresh, hey, me advising you, well, strange things do happen. Sincerely, Zora Neale Hurston In 1896 W.E. B DUBOIS wrote an article in the Atlanta Monthly about the recent Supreme Court Case of Separate but Equal case telling black folks they were inferior and could not socially mix with them. This essay became the first chapter of W.E.B Dubois book The Souls of Black Folk (1903). Dubois said black people suffered “Double Consciousness” of their feelings of being seen as a problem and having to live under black codes, Jim Crow. In 1928 Zora wrote How it feels to be Colored Me and said “No separate feeling about being an American citizen and colored…I belong to no race or time” Zora said. However her anthropological work was just the opposite of her feelings and deeds. Langston Hughes parodies her running around the streets of New York measuring black folk’s skulls. She also said “Dubois is the most pleadigest of all…So subjective that he can’t utter a straight sentence. She accused him of trying to make white people black with “No proof walk from the clutches of his falsehoods to his bosom. He snatched numerous perfectly white people into Negro race in the same way. I have decided that it comes from a monumental inferiority complex. That sort of thing is practiced by the Jews too. Those who do that wish that they were white people” p. 533. To be fair she also claims that the mulattoes of Haiti do not wish to claim that they are black either. “His (Dubois) pretense that the ancient Egyptians were Negros is just as arbitrary and false p.534. Now come now at this late date you don’t know that the Egyptians were black is like confessing that the CIA didn’t kill JFK. Now wonder she wrote that Blacks were not supporting her p.708 and calling her a “handkerchief head ****** girl. At least Zora was consistent. If she opposed Dubois “Double Consciousness” of the black man based in part in law and customs of whites like the Plessy vs Fergusson decision of 1896 them it follows she would find something wrong with the 1954 Supreme Court case Brown vs School Board that reversed it. Zora never took into account the Laws of Cause and effect. She never saw racism as a disease that could psychological damage black folk. Maybe because she lived in an all-black city. She states the brown case offended her integrity and self-respect of her people. Zora was opposed to any claims of white superiority so she rejected that “Separate but Equal” could make blacks feel inferior. Zora missed the point it wasn’t about separation it was about the reasons for the separation. Even Dubois resigned from the NAACP in 1934 because he wanted blacks to voluntary separate and unite blacks as a strategy for economic progress. However, he didn’t want whites telling blacks they couldn’t go to a certain school, college to advance themselves for themselves and their race. NIGGERRR HEAVEN Zora defends Dubois opposes BOOKS (Van Vechten’s “Niiiggerrr Heaven”) Crisis magazine December 1926 Carl Van Vechten’s “Niiigger heaven” is a blow in the face. It is an affront to the hospitality of black folk and to the intelligence of white. First, as to its title: my objection is based on no provincial dislike of the nickname. “nigggerr is an English word of wide use and definite connotation…****** heaven does not mean, as Van Vechten’s of a haven for negroes-a city of refuge for dark and tired souls; it means in common parlance, a nasty, sordid corner into which black folk are herded, and yet a place which they in crass ignorance are fools to enjoy. Harlem is no such place as that, and no one knows this better than Carl Van Vechten. It is a caricature. It is worse than untruth because it is a mass of half-truths. ..Van counts among his friends numbers of Negroes. His authority on dives and cabarets…all of Harlem life in its cabarets…such a theory of Harlem is nonsense”—W.E.B Dubois. Let me pull your coat to some background information here. Some of the people Dubois says were a caricature were Harold Jackman and Countee Cullen secret gay lovers. In 1928 Cullen married Dubois daughter Nina but it only lasted 2 years. Zora loved men and had no problems with homosexuals like Langston hughes until he started be funny with the money. I can see why Zora supports Van Vechten she writes to Annie Meyer a white Jew who helped her get into college and called herself to her “Your humble and obedient little pick Zora” and “your little pickaninny was considerably cheered by your letter” p.63. However, being friends with Langston Hughes for years and the first time they argue about some money she writes: “How dare you use the word “*******” to me. You know I don’t use such a nasty word. I’m a refined lady and such a word simply upsets my conglomeration. What do you think I was doing in Washington all that time if not getting cultured? I got my foot in society just as well as the rest. Treat me refined”. This is a contradiction because she uses many variations of the N word. And she calls self in white society a “Pet Darkey” p.180, 418 in the “Pet Negro system”p.181 where whites had their token blacks they helped with the sale of their works. Maybe Zora was trying to stroke the white egos of white superiority and keep them helping her econically but for others a residue of feudalism. My people, my people didn’t Zora know that the word pinic came from picking a nic for lynching and castration and that pickaninny evolved from the same racist root? With all said and done, All I can do is second the motion of rapper Ice Cube advance in a song that they wouldn’t call me a ******* when I get to heaven. Even Black Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is taking a play from Zora’s playbook of calling blacks in the democratic party as Pets. Carson is trying to rally support with the whites by making inflammatory statements to blacks. This is just a small sample of Editor Carla Kaplan’s Zora Neale Hurston: A life in Letters. I invite you to check out this book if you’re a big fan of Zora. To be a fan of Zora and not know her history is like thinking the fisherman that dangles a worm is a friend to a fish. Put all of your stardom in the frying pan until you have read this lady’s personal letters. It’s a peek hole into her soul. But I warn you it might enhance or deflate your pedestal of Zora. As for me I like tasting the sugar on many of her letters and fly away from the sh…it stains on the others. The trick of the college professors is to get you to fall in love with her novels and short stories first then telling the other side if they tell it at all. Zora believed in segregation even in death “A cemetery for the illustrious Negro dead” p. 518. From the Womb to the Tomb; from Sugar to **** I say.