Black Ancestors : Zora Neale Hurston's 123th Birthday - as honored by Google

Discussion in 'Honoring Black Ancestors' started by Destee, Jan 7, 2014.

  1. Destee

    Destee destee.com STAFF

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    Zora Neale Hurston

    Google has beautifully honored Our Beloved Ancestor's 123rd Birthday on their home page.

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    Just thot i'd share in case yall missed it.

    :heart:

    Destee
     
  2. AACOOLDRE

    AACOOLDRE Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    ZORA NEALE HURSTON
    By Andre Austin

    I never paid any attention to Zora until I was forced to face her in my American literary class in college. She was born in 1891. I just loved her two short stories The Gilded six-bits and Sweat. These two short stories were based in part on her exploring the folklore stories of Black people in the 1930’s. Her book Mules and Men (1935) was a anthropological book of black folklore. I didn’t like reading black language that wasn’t correct English like “whuss de matter, jack” and all that other jive talking. I was mostly attracted to Mules and Men because of its primary research done on Voodoo. I liked Voodoo because this black magic along with yellow fever got the Catholic French the hell out of Haiti. Pat Robertson said the people of Haiti was cursed because they made a pact with the devil to get their freedom from white slavery. Well since Noah was drunk when he cursed Ham, the expression couldn’t have been an expression of God’s will or pact but a compact with white supremacy. Any way from her book Dust tracks on a road (1942) she admits she went under ceremonies to Voodoo priests. One was lying naked on a couch for three days. “In another ceremony, I had to sit at the crossroads at midnight in complete darkness and meet the devil, and make a compact”. All I could say was wow. Is this what Toussaint did to free his peoples from bondage? Hey, By any means necessary.

    The first time I read Zora name was in Cornel west Book Race Matters. West had said: “Republican Party allegiance of letters, Zora Neale Hurston, are often overlooked by her contemporary feminist followers” (Race First p.74). Six years before her death Hurston attacked the Supreme court’s ruling on school desegregation. She argued that pressure for integration denied the value of existing black institutions. People took this the wrong way. Zora grew up in a all black town of Eastoville, Florida where her father was mayor. I guess Zora didn’t want to see black people integrated out of power. The teachers will have you read her stories first before they will talk about the politics of her time, so that it will not spoil the fun of her exciting stories.

    Zora simply wrote: “I don’t attempt to solve any problem (in a novel). I know I can’t straighten out with a few pen strokes what God and men took centuries to mess up. So I tried to deal with life as we actually live it, not as socialist imagine it”. So if a vision, dream and a plan comes for a better day don’t write it or try to bring it in existence? Some have accused Hurston’s work of portraying blacks as minstrel characters. Richard Wright condemned Their eyes were watching God (1937) for not having a theme, no message, no thought. Its addressed to whites not blacks. A minstrel show that makes whites laugh. It panders to whites and presents blacks as oversimplified southern experience. Zora later regretted writing the novel. We are not simple people who just sing and dance.

    Zora died in 1960 broke. If it wasn’t for Alice Walker author of The Color Purple (1982). Walker found her gravesite and wrote an article about her in a white magazine in 1975 and revived interest in her works. If Black females can only get a Oscar for making the Blackman into a Monster then I keep focusing my attention on The Isis Papers.
     
  3. Gorilla

    Gorilla Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    I thought that was a pretty cool doodle. Google always surprises me with those doodles.
     
  4. Kadijah

    Kadijah Banned MEMBER

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    Prolly because she wrote to, for and about black women.

    I don't think Zora would agree with you that she wrote "jive talking." She was not hooked into the idea of standard English as being sacrosanct, the correct and highest form of linguistics, thus, wrote the way black people of her time spoke, i.e., ebonics.

    As you note, the book is anthropological. She would have been a very poor anthropologist had she written the spoken words, expressing the feelings and attitudes of rough-and-tumble, illiterate black men laboring in dusty, sweaty, all-male logging camps in the backwoods of Florida as if they were spoken by the Boston Brahmin uppercrust of the day.

    I beg to differ. The uprising of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of black people, led first by Toussaint and after his death, Dessalines who had no pretentions of love for white people, and not so much the religious practice of Voodoo as their wielding the flaming sword of justice, that pushed the Spanish into the sea and ran the French of ANY religion the hell out of Haiti.

    I know the bible and Pat Robertson is no Noah.... and the people of Haiti are not cursed. I do agree, however, that Robertson's pronouncement was not an expression of God's will rather an expression of white supremacy.

    No, Toussaint (Dr. King) and later, Dessalines (Malcolm) freed their people from bondage by picking up the gun and fighting the French, in some cases, man to man. I would suggest you read "The Black Jacobians" by C.L.R. James for the definitive history of the Haitian Revolution. As being the wont of black people of the times, Zora was being fanciful.

    Thank you for quoting SOMETHING I can agree with West on for the first time.

    That is not my understanding of the woman I've come to admire greatly. My understanding is precisely what West wrote, i.e., the "pressure for integration denied the value of existing black institutions." As a sterling example of what an all-black school with all black teachers in an all-black town could produce, Zora Neale Hurston was never of the opinion that black children had to be seated next to white children to learn; indeed, she felt it was better in racist America with its racist white teachers and schoolbooks, for black children to educated in a crucible of blackness by people who looked like them, loved them, nurtured their intelligence and self-esteem, and would tell the history right!

    Her books neither contradict her politics nor the politics of her time. Indeed, they are a reflection of both.

    She also wrote that she was not "tragically Negro" (in reference to the white "socialist's imagination" of the "po' black people" of her time), adding something about her just sitting there, sharpening her (sugar cane) knife..... Hurston wrote of black life at the turn of the 20th century, and in putting our truth to paper, reminded us that we, as a people, were under siege and on a moment's notice, should be prepared for attack.

    What vision, dream and/or plan did the male authors of the Harlem Renaissance write.... or try to bring into existence? They, like Hurston, were writers, not revolutionaries or even black "leaders." Their responsibility as penners of the black existence of the 1920's was to INSPIRE the latter, not take on their jobs. Do not expect more of female Zora than of male Paul Lawrence Dunbar, et al, whose works are still quoted by blacks, the media, and in the history books. In fact, the question should be: Why are the black male writers of the Harlem Renaissance who wrote of the "tragic Negro" (e.g., Richard Wright's "Bigger Thomas") well-known, and not Zora Neale Hurston who wrote of "sharpening her (sugar cane) knife?"

    Only those who exhibit black self-hate, are reading comprehension-challenged, and/or are ashamed of black people and black life.

    Adding: Richard Wright whose books were of the "tragically Negro" genre and as soon as he could find one who'd have him, married a becky.

    Please provide a link to such a quote by Hurston. I find it hard to believe she'd regret writing one of the most powerful books illuminating black life, thought and attitudes of that time and even today, ever written.

    For those so unfortunate to not have read "Their Eyes were Watching God," in it, she writes of a black town's General Store and the black owner's black wife who has long, wavy hair that she plaits into a single fat braid that falls down her back to her butt. She writes about the black men of the town who come into the store where the wife works behind the counter, and when to get them an item from the shelves, she turns her back and they think she doesn't notice, reach over the counter and slyly, reverently, "touch" her braid.

    "Minstrel show?" Hardly. :news:
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2014
  5. Kadijah

    Kadijah Banned MEMBER

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    As did, and does, many who write books for a living. Although, one who thinks for themselves might wonder why, if she wrote books as "exciting" as you judged them, that taken together as a whole one would call them a "Minstrel Show," why her name isn't remembered, a household name .... like Steppin' Fettchit? Or even the more recent black minstrels, "Amos 'n Andy?" :10500:

    Perhaps because unlike her fellow MALE Harlem Renaissance writer/buddy Langston Hughes who wrote a serial newspaper column about (IMO) the ultimate minstrel character, "Simple," her heroines were brave, resourceful, courageous black females who stepped out into a danger-filled world that devalued them at every turn, on faith and love?

    Beg pardon? What does Alice Walker finding Hurston's unmarked grave and reviving interest in her works have to do Halle Berry winning an Oscar for "Monster's Ball?" Which, btw, I didn't see so I can't comment on Halle's character making any "Blackman into a Monster."

    As for the Isis Papers - no prob. I do believe, however, that black WOMEN will find much more personal liberation and relief in Zora Neale Hurston's books. I once met Frances Cress Welsing. Brilliant woman, but she's no Zora Neale Hurston who when she did her anthropological studies of black folklore in the all-male logging camps of Florida where few men dared to tread and NO women.... strapped a pistol to her hip, jumped in her "new" 2nd hand car and stepping out on faith and love, did what a sistah had to do.

    All respect, :bowdown: all love :hearts4:for the woman whose Harlem Renaissance buddy, Langston Hughes (unlike her other contemporary, the contemptuous of ALL black women, Richard Wright - read his autobiography, the part where as a teenager, he and a young black girl he was escorting home got accosted by a white male who not only said something disrespectful to the young girl.... IN WRIGHT'S FACE.... but slapped her on the butt to punctuate his disrespect - again, in Wright's face! When after the white guy laughed and moved on, to "save" the worthless chap's face who said nothing, did nothing to protect her, or even to address the insult to HIS manhood as her escort, she poohed-poohed the incident, Wright saved his own 'limp d**k' by turning his repressed rage and impotence onto the young sistah (who knew that for a black boy to stand up to a white man in defense of a black girl in the 1920's South was for him to die), and wrote something scornful to the effect that if the assault (by the racist and his saying/doing nothing in response) didn't bother her, the "tramp" deserved it).

    But I digress....

    Beginning again:

    All respect, :bowdown: all love :hearts4:for the woman whose Harlem Renaissance buddy, Langston Hughes, laughed and said slightingly of her black woman-affirming novels: "Oh Zora and her romance books!" hahaha

    The laugh's on brutha Langston. Zora rules. She's as relevant and insightful into the black psyche and condition today as she was at the turn of the 20th century.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2014
  6. Kadijah

    Kadijah Banned MEMBER

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    I once wrote a short bio of Zora. Since this thread is about her, I'd like to share it:

    I love Zora Neal Hurston. I identify with her. "I am not tragically colored" is the first line in her autobiography. Born in 1891, she was the mayor's daughter in the all-black town of Eatonville, Florida. She wrote she did not even know she was black until she was 11 years old (in an isolated, homogeneous society where everyone is black, why categorize yourself by race?). Hurston earned a degree from Barnard College even though she never finished high school.

    She arrived in New York in 1925 and became an instant leading light in the Harlem Renaissance. She as famous for being flamboyant and outrageous as for her extraordinary writing. After finishing college, where she studied anthropology, she strapped a revolver to her hip, bought a car and went to collect African-American folklore in her native South. She went places where no woman was safe (reason for the revolver) and took no smack from nobody. Recordings from her travels where she sings black unknown folk songs she uncovered still exist.

    Alice Walker, who re-introduced Zora to the world after her death in 1960 says that Zora "upset a lot folks just by her flamboyance, and by her style and by her refusal to be daunted." As a folklorist and an author, Zora captured a vision of the South not seen before her and rarely seen today.

    Hurston wrote truth, with courage. She wasn't interested in speaking to white people, but to black people, about black life and the black condition. There was and is still, so much richness, texture and beauty in black culture, she didn't feel it necessary. As a result, she was ridiculed, denigrated and harassed while she lived, but to the end, she remained unbowed.

    Her autobiography, "Dust Tracks on a Road", is the only book where she dealt with race and racism, head on. Before it was released, her white publisher deleted all her anti-white references and - cause and effect? - by the 1950's, Hurston slipped into obscurity.

    Zora wrote many novels after her autobiography, but although she had won many prestigious awards for writing, none were ever accepted by a publisher again. All have been lost to us. She died, impoverished, in an unmarked grave in 1960.

    In 1973, Alice Walker found the field where Zora Neal Hurston was buried and placed a headstone on it that reads: "Zora Neale Hurston, a genius of the South."

    Btw, Google's picture of Zora keeps "bothering" me. While it mos def looks like her, idk, some of the "blackness" seems to have been filtered out. Thus, Zora Neale Hurston:

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    Zora Neale Hurston, photo by Carl Van Vechten (1938)
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2014
  7. Kadijah

    Kadijah Banned MEMBER

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    I made a boo-boo in my first post. I wrote "I am not tragically Negro" when, in fact, the title is "I am not tragically Colored." From her autobiography:

    I Am Not Tragically Colored

    I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow damned up in my soul nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that Nature somehow has given them a low-down dirty deal and feelings are all hurt about it." Thus begins her autobiography.

    The line "I am not tragically Colored" also comes from Hurston's essay, "How I Feel To Be Colored Me." She leads that essay off with:
    I AM COLORED but I offer nothing in the way of extenuating circumstances except the fact that I am the only Negro in the United States whose grandfather on the mother's side was not an Indian chief. (lol)

    One last thing of note - Their Eyes Were Watching God is Hurston's masterpiece, her critically acclaimed opus magnus. The slighting of this book, the almost criminal mislabeling of it as a "minstrel show" must be addressed. And I leave it to you, the reader, to make your own assessment:

    In "Their Eyes Were Watching God", the book Oprah made into a TV movie with Halle Berry and Terrance Howard, an ex-slave tells her granddaughter (played by Halle) what a woman ought to be:

    "I wanted to preach a great sermon about colored women sitting on high, but there wasn't no pulpit for me. Freedom found me with a baby daughter in my arms. So I said I'd take a broom and a cook pot and throw up a highway through the wilderness for her. She would expound what I felt. But somehow, she got lost off of the highway and next thing I know, here you was in the world. So whilst I was tending you at night, I said I'd save the best of you. I been waiting a long time, Janie, but nothing I been through ain't too much if you just take a stand on high ground, like I dreamed."

    Any skinnin' 'n grinnin', shuckin' 'n jivin' in the above? Sorry, but that 'minstrel' crap got on my laaaaast nerve!


    P.S.
    I just have to say it - the TV movie of "Their Eyes Were Watching God" was one of the best adaptations of a novel I've ever seen. If you missed it, look for a DVD or something. Halle was wonderful in it.
     
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