5 Zora Neale Hurston Quotes from How it Feels to Be Colored Me
By Nava Atlas | On | Comments (1)
“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 was 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.”
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“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.”
“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.”
“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 page on Amazon
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