Zora Neale Hurston

African American folklorist, novelist, short story writer, and Civic Rights advocate (1891-1960)

Zora Neale Hurston (7 January 189128 January 1960) was an American folklorist and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance, best remembered for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937).

Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me.

Quotes edit

Gods always behave like the people who make them.
Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to "jump at de sun." We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.
Love, I find is like singing. Everybody can do enough to satisfy themselves, though it may not impress the neighbors as being very much.
  • Ah done been in sorrow's kitchen and Ah done licked out all de pots. Ah done died in grief and been buried in de bitter waters, and Ah done rose agin from de dead lak Lazarus.
    • Lucy in Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934), Ch. 6, p. 13
  • Gods always behave like the people who make them.
    • Tell My Horse (1938), Ch. 15, p. 219
  • I accept this idea of democracy. I am all for trying it out. It must be a good thing if everybody praises it like that. If our government has been willing to go to war and sacrifice billions of dollars and millions of men for the idea I think that I ought to give the thing a trial.
    The only thing that keeps me from pitching head long into this thing is the presence of numerous Jim Crow laws on the statute books of the nation. I am crazy about the idea of Democracy. I want to see how it feels.
    • "Crazy for This Democracy" in Negro Digest (December 1945)

"How It Feels to Be Colored Me" (1928) edit

"How It Feels to Be Colored Me", in The World Tomorrow (May 1928)
  • 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.
  • I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to that sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world — I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.
  • Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It is beyond me.
    But in the main, I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall. Against a wall in company with other bags, white, red and yellow. Pour out the contents, and there is discovered a jumble of small things priceless and worthless. A first-water diamond, an empty spool, bits of broken glass, lengths of string, a key to a door long since crumbled away, a rusty knife-blade, old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be, a nail bent under the weight of things too heavy for any nail, a dried flower or two still a little fragrant. In your hand is the brown bag. On the ground before you is the jumble it held — so much like the jumble in the bags, could they be emptied, that all might be dumped in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the content of any greatly. A bit of colored glass more or less would not matter. Perhaps that is how the Great Stuffer of Bags filled them in the first place — who knows?

Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) edit

ISBN 0-252-00686-0
  • Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.
    • Ch. 1, p. 9
  • "Well, Ah see Mouth-Almighty is still sittin' in de same place. And Ah reckon they got me up in they mouth now."

    "Yes indeed. You know if you pass some people and don't speak tuh suit 'em dey got tuh go way back in yo' life and see whut you ever done. They know mo' 'bout yuh than you do yo' self. They done 'heard' 'bout you just what they hope done happened."

    "If God don't think no mo' 'bout 'em than Ah do, they's a lost ball in de high grass."

    • Janie and Phoeby, Ch. 1, p. 16
  • Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches.
    • Ch. 2, p. 8
  • After a while she got up from where she was and went over the little garden field entire. She was seeking confirmation of the voice and vision, and everywhere she found and acknowledged answers. A personal answer for all other creations except herself. She felt an answer seeking her, but where? When? How?
    • Ch. 2
  • ‘So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he donʼt tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.’
    • Ch. 2
  • There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
    • Ch. 3, p. 21
  • The years took all the fight out of Janie’s face. For a while she thought it was gone from her soul.
    • Ch. 7
  • When God had made The Man, he made him out of stuff that sung all the time and glittered all over. Then after that some angels got jealous and chopped him into millions of pieces, but still he glittered and hummed. So they beat him down to nothing but sparks but each little spark had a shine and a song. So they covered each one over with mud. And the lonesomeness in the sparks make them hunt for one another, but the mud is deaf and dumb. Like all the other tumbling mud-balls, Janie had tried to show her shine.
    • Ch. 9
  • ‘But youʼse takinʼ uh awful chance.’
    ‘No moʼ than Ah took befoʼ and no moʼ than anybody else takes when dey gits married. It always changes folks, and sometimes it brings out dirt and meanness dat even de person didnʼt know they had in ʼem theyselves.’
    • Ch. 12
  • All gods who receive homage are cruel. All gods dispense suffering without reason. Otherwise they would not be worshipped. Through indiscriminate suffering men know fear and fear is the most divine emotion. It is the stones for altars and the beginning of wisdom. Half gods are worshipped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.
    • Ch. 16
  • The wind came back with triple fury, and put out the light for the last time. They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.
    • Ch. 18
  • "Then you must tell ’em dat love ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore."
    • Ch. 20
  • "It’s uh known fact, Pheoby, you got tuh go there tuh know there. Yo’ papa and yo’ mama and nobody else can’t tell yuh and show yuh. Two things everybody’s got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves."
    • Ch. 20
  • Of course he wasn't dead. He could never be dead until she herself had finished feeling and thinking. The kiss of his memory made pictures of love and light against the wall. Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.
    • Ch. 20, p. 193

Dust Tracks on a Road (1942) edit

ISBN 0-060-92168-4
  • Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to "jump at de sun." We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.
    • Ch.2 : My Folks, p. 13
  • Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. It is a seeking that he who wishes may know the cosmic secrets of the world and they that dwell therein.
    • Ch. 10 : Research, p. 143
  • If you haven’t got it, you can’t show it. If you have got it, you can’t hide it.
    • Ch. 12 : My People! My People!
  • Love, I find is like singing. Everybody can do enough to satisfy themselves, though it may not impress the neighbors as being very much.
    • Ch. 14 : Love, p. 203

Quotes about Zora Neale Hurston edit

  • there certainly have been excellent storytellers and writers within anthropology. That’s one of the reasons I co-edited the book Women Writing Culture (1996) because I was really interested in finding the canon of women writers within anthropology who had written well. Anthropologists like Ella Deloria, Zora Neale Hurston, and Barbara Myerhoff, among others, have been amazing writers.
  • I see the "choral" first chapter of Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God as a great exercise in writing multiply, voicing a community.
  • “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” which I read for the first time only five years ago, and which made me fall in love with Zora Neale Hurston. I was knocked out by her eye for detail, her rigorous use of formal and vernacular languages and the depth of her narrative perspectives. Since then, I’ve read her stories and essays and found her throughout to be an independent thinker.
  • Black writers, of whatever quality, who step outside the pale of what black writers are supposed to write about, or who black writers are supposed to be, are condemned to silences in black literary circles that are as total and as destructive as any imposed by racism. This is particularly true for black women writers who have refused to be delineated by male-establishment models of femininity, and who have dealt with their sexuality as an accepted part of their identity. For instance, where are the women writers of the Harlem Renaissance being taught? Why did it take so long for Zora Neale Hurston to be reprinted?
    • 1982 interview in Conversations with Audre Lorde (2004)

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