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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: April 12, 2004
Latest Update: April 12, 2004

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Index of Topics on Site Zora Neale Hurston

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, April 2004.
"Fair use" encouraged.

No liberal arts education in the U.S. is complete without some rudimentary knowledge of Zora Neale Hurston. She was a talented writer, wrote Black dialect beautifully, and conveyed the joy of being Black in America in the early days of the twentieth century. Her most famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, still provokes arguments among feminists, who seem to feel the need to know whether Janie was abused by her lover, or whether she allowed him to hit her because of the social infrastructure in which they existed. We're only talking about once. He was dark-skinned. She was light-skinned. And color prejudice existed even in the small Negro governed township where they lived. Perhaps this is a good time to remind you that there are no perfect answers, no "right" thing to do. Other black men in the specific situation saw only color and a dark man's need to let his woman know he was as good as the light-skinned rival.

Life is complex. We are not always conscious of our reasons; we are not always rational. I do not feel the need to know what Janie felt, or what her lover felt. I can engage in illocutionary discourse with myself about how complex such decisions would be. Maybe it was right; maybe it was wrong. But in 2004, Zora Neale Hurston brings that home to me, up front and personal. What a legacy to have left us! If you've never read the book, you're missing a great opportunity. jeanne

[Thumbnail image of Carl Van Vechten's Zora Neale Hurston (Gelatin silver print, 1938)] Scroll about two-thirds of the way down the file. Carl Van Vechten. Zora Neale Hurston. Gelatin silver print. 1938. Reproduction #: LC-USZ62-79898 (b&w film copy neg.) from the Library of Congress.

"Now called the "literary grandmother" to black women writers, author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston was a major figure in the Harlem Renaisance of the 1920s and 1930s. Carl Van Vechten's portrait was taken the year after Hurston's most important novel, the folk romance Their Eyes Were Watching God, was published. Van Vechten, a writer and critic as well as an amateur photographer, was known as the "chronicler of Manhattan" and became an effective advocate of African-American music and letters. He bequeathed to the Library of Congress an archive of approximately 1,400 photographs of the artists, literati, and other celebrities of the period, from Josephine Baker to William Faulkner. (Gift of the photographer's estate)"