5 Zora Neale Hurston Quotes from How it Feels to Be Colored Me

Zora Neale Hurston

“How it Feels to Be Colored Me” is a brief essay by Zora Neale Hurston originally published in the 1928 edition of The World Tomorrow.  In it, she explores her own experience with race, in her customary brash manner. She makes clear that she speaks only for herself.

Raised in the all-black community of Eatonville, FL, Hurston first encountered what was universally called “the race problem” as a young adult striving to gain an education in the north.

The tone of this essay doesn’t reflect the kind intellectual black pride that was flowering in the Harlem Renaissance movement of the 1920s; yet it unabashedly pokes holes in the rampant segregation and bias that were woven into the fabric of American life, North or South.

Here are 5 quotes, not so much on what it was to be a black woman of that era, but how it felt to be Zora Neale Hurston:


“How can anyone deny themselves the pleasure of my company?”

“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can anyone deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”

. . . . . . . . . .

“I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife”

“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 … even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of the little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world — I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”

. . . . . . . . . .

Zora Neale Hurston quotes

Zora Neale Hurston Quotes and Life Lessons
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I am off to a flying start”

“Someone is always at my elbow reminding me that I am the granddaughter of slaves. It fails to register with me. Slavery is sixty years in the past. The operation was successful and the patient is doing well, thank you. The terrible struggle that made an American out of a potential slave said ‘On the line!’

The Reconstruction said ‘Get Set!’; and the generation before said ‘Go!’ I am off to a flying start and I must not halt in the stretch to look behind and weep.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

Zora Neale Hurston Books

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“I am a dark rock searched upon”

“I do not always feel colored. Even now I often achieve the unconscious Zora of Eatonville before the Hegira. I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background. For instance at Barnard. ‘Beside the waters of the Hudson’ I feel my race. Among this thousand White persons, I am a dark rock searched upon, and overslept, but through it all, remain myself.”

. . . . . . . . . .

I am the eternal feminine with its string of beads”

“At certain times I have no race, I am me. When I set my hat at a certain angle and saunter down Seventh Avenue, Harlem City, feeling as snooty as the Lions in front of the Forty-Second Street Library, for instance … The cosmic Zora emerges. I belong to no race nor time. I am the eternal feminine with its string of beads.”

. . . . . . . . . .


Zora Neale Hurston Quotes and Life Lessons
“Crazy for This Democracy” by ZNH
I Love Myself When I Am Laughing …
What White Publishers Won’t Print

Zora and Me: How I Found Myself by Discovering Zora Neale Hurston
. . . . . . . . . .

Their eyes were watchin god by Zora Neale Hurston

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Quotes from Their Eyes Were Watching God

7 Responses to “5 Zora Neale Hurston Quotes from How it Feels to Be Colored Me”

  1. There is a lot of value in this essay. It points out the theory of “double consciousness” that DuBois iterated when he points out how Black folks see ourselves “our” way as well as how white folks and other Black folks see us, which is totally different from our own self-perception. Hurston definitely knew the difference and still didn’t care. She acted on her own views of herself, not how anyone else saw her or expected her to be. She was authentic, to say the least.

    • Thank you so much for your perceptive comment, Jeanette. Zora is amazing. I just wish she could have witnessed the belated appreciation of her life and work, after she had struggled so much.

  2. THANK GOD FOR ZORA! I read this comments and all I cam do is shake my head. Thank God for this woman who dared to rejoice in her skin in America in the 1920s! Black as a preference, not as a condition, or shackle. We’ve become so narrow in our thinking, and ability to discourse. I can almost see her throw her head back AND HOWL! #ZoraNealeHurston

  3. Zora took a great step by all-black community of Eatonville I am very inspired before reading this story. Zora is a magical writer she writes how it feels to be colored me theme is very awesome. But meantime there is no value this types of stories.

    • There is a high value to these stories, it just requires the reader to have a sense of empathy. Hurston allows the reader to take on her perspective by placing the audience in her shoes. Thinking critically is the key to understanding her work.

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