How It Feels to Be Colored Me
African American Culture in How It Feels to be Colored Me, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, and Present
Culture is the lifeblood of a dynamic society and expresses our many ways of telling stories, celebrating, recalling the past, entertaining ourselves and imagining the future. Our creative expression helps determine who we are and helps us see the world through the eyes of others. Ontario participates in cultural activities in many ways, such as viewers, professionals, hobbyists, volunteers, donors or investors.In addition to the intrinsic value of culture, there are important social and economic benefits. As learning and health improve, tolerance and opportunities for others increase, our culture improves our quality of life and increases the overall well-being of individuals and communities. A participatory culture can benefit individuals in many ways, some of which are very personal. They are a source of joy and surprise, providing emotional and intellectual engagement, be it happy or uneasy, and encourage celebration or contemplation. Culture is also a means of expressing creativity, shaping one’s identity, and raising or defending community awareness.
Before I took this course, I have a very little understanding about the history and culture of black people. When I was still in high school, my “white” history teachers did not teach us much about the black history and culture. What came up to my mind when I heard about “black” this word are slavery and racism, nothing more than that. After I took this course, I have a deeper understanding of what racism and slavery are, also, I learned and understand in depth of how and why black people act in certain ways, their emotions, their feelings and thoughts, and their lifestyle.
The first reading which catched my attention the most is “How It Feels To Be Colored Me” by Zora Neale Hurston, it is because as a colored man, I am very interested to know how other colored people feel to be colored. In “How It Feels To Be Colored Me”, Zora Neale Hurston explores her identity and self-pride. While Zara was still living in Florida, She was not treated as or looked upon as being weird, different or alienated. However, after the death of her mother, she moved to a boarding school in Jacksonville, she started to be considered different, alienated and “colored” by other people. She did not think of herself as tragically colored, which is one of the things I feel really proud of her. Back to seven years ago, once I came to Boston, I was considered a “colored” man, different and alienated by others and even teachers at the middle school. I am a colored man, a chinese man, and I am actually proud of that because that is what my parent gave to me. Because of my lack of ability to communicate with others, I was being viewed as a weird chinese boy and being alienated.
Toward the end of the story, she uses a metaphor to compare herself to a brown bag which is stuffed with random bits and bobs. Even though she represents herself as a brown bag which is different from everyone else’s, due to the color of her skin’s color, the “bits and bobs’ inside everyone’s bag, even in her brown bag, would all be the same human character. In “How It Feels To Be Colored Me”, there are two major themes, self conflict and misunderstanding. Hurston was grown up in an all-black community in Florida, she was not being alienated by other people and was protected from racism because everyone in her community share the same culture, language and identity. But once she moved from the town of Eatonville, the color of her skin became an unfortunate appearance for her and she was introduced into a totally different and uncomfortable lifestyle. While she was still young, living in the town of Eatonville and while her mother was still alive, she had being taught to love her identity, her skin’s color and be proud of what she got from her parents. However, everything changed after the death of her mother, she always have to dealt with the way that society viewing her skin color and identity, which ultimately led her questioning herself and dealing with self-conflict. Although racism was being prevail during that time, Zora neale Hurston was stressing and concerning that her readers dislike many african americans, however, she did not mind and feel ashamed because of her skin’s color, she thought it is what all the African American should be embrace about. Also, at the same time, modernism was being break from tradition, unlike most of the african americans, she rejected the concern that how they were being portrayed negatively. On the other hand, she takes pride and feels proud in being black, she said “BUT I AM NOT tragically colored”(Hurston, line 29). She also said “I am the only Negro in the United States whose grandfather on the mother’s side was not an Indian chief”(Hurston, line 1) in order to differentiate herself from other black people who only care about how they were being portrayed negatively. Throughout the story, she makes it known that the people around her tell her that she should hate herself because of her skin’s color and identity, however, she is not bothered and even leading her feels proud of being black.
“For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” is a play written by Ntozake Shange. In this play, there is a combination of drama, dance, music and poetry which are performed by seven actresses. This combination is very important because Ntozake Shange expresses her feelings toward her identity as a woman through the words, songs and poetry, she also expresses her thoughts about her identity as an African through dance. It tells the stories of seven women who is suffered from the racist and sexist society. This play catches my attention a lot because it shows me and changed my views toward African cultures. The seven women in the play do not have names. Instead of having a name, they are called “lady in red”, “lady in brown” and so on. The combination of their names makes up to a rainbow, which stands for hopes and future. As each of them tell their own stories, they reflect on what it means to be a colored women, how they are being treated, and what choices they have. In the play, I can feel the angriness from them and what kind of pains they are going through. Some of them have been physically and verbally abuse by their lovers rapists and abortionist. In the brink of despair, the only strength that support them to keep surviving is from the happiness in music and dance. Even Though these seven women grieve, they find happiness through the music and dance, they also celebrate for their lives and identity, their colorfulness and their vitality. At the end of the play, the seven women recite at the same time together “I found god in myself/ and I loved her/ I loved her fiercely.” They are not weak and powerless, they have the powers and supports from their fellows, and the courage to tell their own stories.
There is a few important themes in this play, which are race, female friendships, music and dance, and self-actualization. Because there are no white characters in “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” this play, Ntozake Shange indicates that race is an very important part of her characters’ identities. Also, the title of this play indicate the impetus of it is to encourage colored women to embrace their identities. All the main characters in this play are colored women, because of their racial identities and gender, it affects the audience perspectives through their own experience of all the various anecdotes. Ntozake Shange successfully address the race’s issues in America through the seven women’s stories of struggles and maturation. In the play, music and dance are being described as the most useful way to express one’s feelings and emotion. Occasionally, some of those seven women would break out into chants or dance on the stage. Women experience a release from their struggles and difficulties, have real, personal, cathartic and self-defining experiences through music and dance. Lastly, these seven women (not only these seven colored women, but also include all the other women of color, or even white women) in this play started out as adolescents who do not understand themselves. They were having a hard time to accept their race and gender and being perplexed to find a place where they belong to in this world. Because of their desperation of love, they made mistakes in their relationships but behaved as though they do not deserve it. However because of these mistakes and failures, they becomes stronger and success at the end of the play. These seven women who share the same culture come and bond together, sharing their own stories and thoughts through their actions, music and dance. Drawing a lesson from what they have made mistakes from, and finally become fully-fledged human being, special and powerful, accepting the flaws they each has and this is what make them to become unique and glorious.
The poem “Present” by Sonia Sanchez is an autobiographical introspective piece for the author. It reveals a great understanding from the perspective of indigenous and black women. By using Sanchez’s command of melody and rhythm, she successfully evokes color and imagery toward her connections to blues, she also evokes her indigenous heritage. In this poem, she searches, experiment and question herself and her place in this collective history.
In the first stanza of the poem, Sanchez uses her iconic blues and hip hop rhythm to evokes melodic motion. In my perspective, it seems like being a self-portrait of her current perspective of herself. She points out her own physical appearance and accept that her skin tone is part of the Alabama roots. It also talks about the divisive nature of colorism, which is assessing someone’s value based on their skins’ colors. It is a very common discussion topic for a lot of feminist writers. Historically, women with lighter skin color were viewed as more beautiful than other colored women, have the ability to receive more privilege and visibility in the western societies. However in this poem, Sonia Sanchez points out that all women should be treated equally, receive equal privilege and visibility. There is a line in this poem that is very interesting to me, “pleasure without tongues”(Sanchez, line 11). This line displays pleasure, but at the same time, the silence around this pleasure can be seen. In my point of view, Sanchez asserts that she has right to be a sexual being, but not with the thought of being a sexual object or an object to be desire. In the following line, “This woman whose body waves”(Sanchez, line 12), in this image of movement, it reveal an important knowledge, which is a secret coding. This knowledge recalls memory because it is a traditional African ways to pass information in a safety way. In the last few lines of this poem, “reviving the beauty of forest and winds, is telling you secrets, gather up your odors and listen, as she sings the mold from memory”(Sanchez, lines 15 – 18), Sanchez describes women as the gatekeepers of the traditional dance, music and stories.
In the second stanza, she used the perspective that is prevails in African diaspora philosophy. First, she points out that black women are always being described as strong and unbreakable in the history. Because of this bias stereotype, she feels sorrowful that why can’t black women being treated or viewed as soft. Then in the following lines, they describe the individual history of Sanchez, and the acknowledgment of her own history seems to be small, which indicate that her own individual history is only a tiny portion of the entire world’s history, just like a sand on the beach. After that, she references her Native American history, and also African history, and combining herself with the ancient forgotten knowledge, which reveals the perspective which she pointed out a few lines before, her history is only a small portion of the entire world history. She is using a concept of Big Time, the understanding of past, present and future is in a circular pattern, past is informing the present, present is informing the future, and future is informing the past. In “the creation and my grandmothers gathering”(Sanchez, line 17) this line, she started to switch back and forward between the pass and the future in order to remind herself to be aware of her birth, and remind herself to not just growing awareness of self. In the last four lines, she keeps repeating the word “walking”, it can be viewed or comprehended as a journey to the future from the past. The whole purpose of this poem is indicate the fact that even though there are many gaps in our knowledge between our ancestors and us, however we should not just not care about it because there is a strong connections between our ancestors and us through expression, literature and imagination.
These three sources that I mentioned in this essay are essential for unpacking the themes raised in the content because three of them have a strong connection with the African American culture. In the first source, “How It Feels to be Colored Me” by Zora Neale Hurston, it indicates the importance of recognizing self-identity and self-pride. We should be proud of being who we are. In the second source, “ For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange, it talks about race, female friendship, music and dance. All of these are the element in one’s tradition and culture. A culture is not able to survive without friendship, music and dance. The poem “Present” by Sonia Sanchez is the final source, and which is the most importance source. It is because it mentions that all colored women, and white women should receive equal privilege and visibility. Moreover, we should never forget our culture and tradition because that’s where we come from, past is the present, present is the future, and future is the past.
Race in America in The Souls of Black Folk, How It Feels to Be Colored Me, and Recitatif
Many authors explain being black and the issues of race in America differently. Authors like W.E.B Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Toni Morrison all use different types of narration, point-of view, and engagement with historical context to touch base with the issues of race in America.
W.E.B Du Bois was a scholar and activist who became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Du Bois is most known for his writing and was a spokesperson for African American rights during the first half of the 20th century. One of Du Bois’s well known works is The Souls of Black Folk which is a work of American literature published in 1903. The Souls of Black Folk is composed of chapters that bring attention to issues of race in America. A chapter in The Souls of Black Folk include “Of Our Spiritual Strivings”. The chapter opens up with a poem by Arthur Symons, “The Crying of Water”. Below the poem is a fragment of a Negro song. A connection between the poem and the song is that the poem was written by a white person and the song was created and sung by Negro people. The putting of the poem and the song ties into the chapter, as Du Bois explains how powerless blacks feel in America and how society treats blacks differently from others. The putting of the poem and the song also shows how similar the poem and the Negro songs are. Du Bois is trying to explain that these two races have similarities and are not so different from one another after all. Another connection between the poem and the song is that they both carry the same sort of message, which shows that these are human issues, not just black people issues. We humans all have the same sort of issues no matter what the color of our skin is. In this chapter Du Bois explains that the one question white people always want to ask Negros is “How does it feel to be a problem?”. Du Bois first became aware that he was a “problem” when a white girl in his elementary classroom did not want to exchange cards with him because he was black. This experience made him realize that he was different in a world full of white people, this being said, as Du Bois stated “The exchange was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, refused my card,- refused it peremptorily, with a glance. Then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others” (Du Bois 921). Du Bois tells the story of race in America from his own experiences and tribulations. The story is told through first person point of view and we as readers get an inside look into how a Negro person in America gets through life every day and all the challenges that come with it due to racist white people.
Zora Neale Hurston was an American author. She portrayed racial struggles in the early 20th century. One of Hurston’s well known works is “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” which was published in 1927. In the work of literature, Hurston describes her experiences as a colored person in America. We as readers get to see exactly how she felt and all the experiences she faced as the work of literature is told through the first person point of view as well. She explains that she always felt normal and just like all Americans until her thirteenth year of life, which was when she “became colored”. Hurston, even though treated differently due to skin color, does not let that bring her down or make her feel ashamed that she is a Negro. She is proud of who she is and will not make any excuses to make up for her “differences”, this being said, as Hurston states “But 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” (Hurston 534). Hurston tells her story of how she grew up in a full Negro community in Florida. She did not feel colored until she turned 13 years old which is when she and her family moved to another city in Florida, where the community was very different compared to the community of her hometown. In this new city is where she became the “little colored girl”. Hurston notes that she does not always feel colored, but she feels it in most places like the college she attends due to the large amount of white students. Hurston’s mental strength is shown when she states “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?” (Hurston 536). This shows, that no matter how “colored” she may feel and how society has failed her and so many other Negros in America, she does not let that bring her down. It almost brings her up and makes her stronger as a person and as a woman. A metaphor Husrton uses in comparing herself and her race versus others is when she states “ 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” (Hurston 536). After the metaphor, Hurston goes on to describe the contents of the bag and how they’re all similar in all the different colored bags. Through this it is evident that Hurston’s message is that no matter what color the bag is, the contents inside are very similar. No matter the skin color of a person, all people of all colors share similar thoughts, emotions, and memories.
Toni Morisson is an American novelist. Her novels are known for giving details of African American characters, as she is an African American as well. One of Morissons well known works is “Recitatif” which was published in 1983. In the fictional story, there are two main characters named Twyla and Roberta. We as readers learn that both girls live in an orphanage due to the fact that their mothers are not fit to care for them. Twyla is told that her mother danced all night and Roberta is told that her mother is sick. The relationship between the two girls did not start off on a good note as Twyla the narrator reveals, “ It was one thing to be taken out of your own bed early in the morning- it was something else to be stuck in a strange place with a girl from a whole other race” (Morrsion 606). It is through this that we learn the girls are completely different races. In this story Morrsion uses fictional characters to depict the issue of race. Morrison tells a story of two girls, one white and one black. Even though we know all about the girls and their lives, we never really find out which character is white and which character is black. Morrision through the use of narration, plays with the reader’s mind as she secretly and discreetly inserts things she knows people will make assumptions about when it comes to race. Basically, the characters in the story have characteristics that could be each race, but we are never entirely sure. An example of this would be “Her own hair was so big and wild I could hardly see her face” (Morrison 610). Immediately after reading this, us readers seem to picture Roberta as black due to her “big” hair. Another example would be “Mary, simple-minded as ever, grinned and tried to yank her hand out of the pocket with the tragedy lining- to shake hands, I guess. Roberta’s mother looked down at me and then looked down at Mary too. She didn’t say anything, just grabbed Roberta with her Bible-free hand and stepped out of line, walking quickly to the rear of it” (Morrison 610). After reading this, us as readers seem to picture Twyla and her mother as black, due to the fact that Roberta’s mother did not want to shake Twyla’s mothers hand at all. This story takes place during the 50s and during this time, most white people did not want to touch or talk to a Negro person at all. Throughout the entire story, we assume that one girl could be one race but we are never exactly sure. Morrison does this to show that we are all equal no matter our skin color. By having the reader almost guess who is the black character and who is white character helps to prove that we are all equal. Twyla could be black or Twyla could be white and same goes for Roberta, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter because a color does not define a human being. Even though this is a fictional story, we as readers get the reality of ourselves as we stereotype against African Americans. It opens up our minds as we realize that African Americans are judged and stereotyped by the rest of Americans every day and we realize we are the ones who feed into those judgements and stereotypes.
Many authors like W.E.B DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Toni Morrison, explain being black and the issues of race in America differently. All these authors all use different types of narration, point-of view, and engagement to touch base with the issues of race in America. In “Of Our Spiritual Striving” and “How It Feels To Be Colored Me” we as readers get an inside look into how Negro people of America are treated and how the treatment they receive affects them mentally due to the narration and first person point of view. In “Recitatif” we as readers get to know ourselves as we stereotype against African Americans. It opens up our minds to realize that African Americans are judged and stereotyped by the rest of Americans every day and we are included in those who feed into those judgements and stereotypes. These works and their authors are important to understand the United State’s cultural history as we see that these works of literature were written years ago, yet issues of race are still a part of our society and remain unchanged.
Race Inequality in How It Feels to Be Colored Me
How It Feels to Be Colored Me Argument Analysis
One does not come into this world with a racial identity, it is simply a learned behavior. Beverly Daniel Tatum, a clinical psychologist and writer, believes that race is not relevant in a child’s early years because it is not salient or noticeable. Be that as it may, it is once that child matures and grows into their skin does their race become a topic of discussion. Tatum’s theory just happens to have rang true for a young Zora Neale Hurston, a child of high self esteem. Born in the small town of Eatonville, Florida, Hurston had very little understanding of race or what it meant to be ‘colored’ until she reached the adolescent age of thirteen. However, despite what was expected of her, she never let her race speak for either her or her character. In the essay How It Feels to Be Colored Me, Hurston refuses to let her race define her because it is a state of mind yet is also something that should be embraced.
Hurston does not believe that she is the color of her skin. Historically speaking, black people are often associated with tragedy and misfortune. For decades black people have been faced with racism and discrimination, which continually set following generations up for extended trials and tribulations. This is not the case for Hurston, however. While she does not delve into ‘the helter-skelter skirmish that is’ her life or any terrors she may have face in her childhood, Hurston refused to let herself be ‘tragically colored’. Disassociating herself with her people’s skin color, she does not identify with ‘the sobbing school of Negrohood’ who ‘weep at the world’- meaning she will not let herself blame the world for her shortcoming. It even ‘fails to register depression’ with her when she is constantly being reminded that she is ‘the granddaughter of slaves’. Hurston holds no malice in her heart about slavery. One, because she was fortunate enough to not be a direct product of it. With it having been ‘sixty years in the past’, Hurston acknowledges that while her ancestor were affected, she was not personally affected by slavery. Therefore there is no reason for her to carry feelings or sentiments that do not pertain to her. On the other hand, Hurston believes that her ancestors struggled through those harrowing times to set her on a path destined for greatness. They paid a price in order for her to raise above and be successful. She was fortunate enough to be born into a country where there is no ‘greater chance for glory’ to accomplish whatever she set her mind to. Hurston embraces the past and the weight her skin color carries, but does not let it define her future. (Hurston 2)
Zora Neale Hurston believes that race is nothing more than a state of mind. Despite the color of her skin, Hurston was not ‘born colored’. However, she became colored once she became familiar with the concept of race. Hurston details her childhood in Eatonville, mentioning that ‘it is exclusively a colored town’ (Hurston 1). Race was never a pressing topic of discussion for her because she was surrounded by people who looked and carried themselves the same way she did. The only white people she had ever come in contact with ‘passed through the town going to or coming from Orlando’. Even then, her ‘queer exchange of compliments’ with them were not enough to make her feel colored (Hurston 1). It is not until she begins school in Jacksonville, and she is no longer in her natural element, does she become ‘a little colored girl’(Hurston 2). With Jacksonville being a more diverse metropolis, there was more opportunity for a young Hurston to become familiar with the notion of race. Subsequent to Beverly Tatum’s ideology, Hurston became colored at thirteen because her race was then salient. Nevertheless, Hurston depicts being colored as nothing more than a feeling that she has the ability to flip like a light switch. For instance, when she saunters ‘down Seventh Avenue, Harlem City’, she is merely ‘cosmic Zora’- considering herself a being of the universe opposed to a colored woman in America (Hurston 3,4). It is similar to a person who is emotional but would rather push their sadness aside in order to be happy, or someone who pushes aside their anxiety so they do not stress themselves out. It is not that Hurston believes she is better off without her race, but she will not let the thought of the color of skin hinder the contents of her character.
Though she prefers to ignore race, Hurston often acknowledges the differences in racial cultures and embraces them. There may be common ground or subtle similarities between the different races, but there will always be one factor that sets them apart. In Hurston’s case, that factor is music. While at The New World Cabaret with a white man, she finds herself enticed by the jazz music. Hurston is completely in her element with ‘its tempo and narcotic harmonies’. On the other hand, her white counterpart remains ‘sitting motionless in his seat, smoking calmly’. Historically speaking, jazz music has its beginnings in black culture. Stemming back to slavery, music was nothing more than a way of life. So when Hurston finds her pulse ‘throbbing like a war drum’ from dancing wildly, it is a representation of her connecting back to her roots. Music is a part of her culture and she strongly embraces it. Hurston understands there is nothing wrong with embracing one’s culture; while culture doesn’t define an individual, it does play a part in their identity. It is the simple things that both sets races apart but makes them each unique in their own way. (Hurston 3)
Race is a complex issue that has plagued America for centuries, whether negative or positive. It has been used to both unite and divide America as a people. Even in today’s age, it is a pressing issue in the streets and a hot topic in the media. Hurston sees race as limiting with individuals often grouping themselves within specific race groups. There is not necessarily anything wrong with this; it typically becomes a problem when people live, eat, sleep, and breathe by their race and not their character. Hurston greatly recognizes the fact that she is indeed a black woman, nothing more and nothing less. Nonetheless, she will not let that be what dictates her life and her perception of the world around her. All in all, Hurston embraces her race but doesn’t let it define her because it is a state of mind. æ
Suffering For African Americans in How It Feels to Be Colored Me
Oppression: Then, and Now
Oppression is prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control over someone. It is something that has been a constant movement throughout generations. Some examples of oppression in today’s society would include lower education and job opportunities. My two pieces of work, How it Feels to be Colored Me and Underground, together, deeply show how there is a continuation of oppression. In Zora Neal Hurston’s How It Feels to be Colored Me, she speaks more on her realizing her “coloredness”, but there is a specific part in the story where we can tell when she’s feeling the societal oppression. In the WGN television show, Underground there are so many more incidences where you can see oppression happening. This show is about the lives of slaves. Slaves have dealt with more “in your face” oppression than any other generation but that is because during those times, there were no laws to give African Americans rights. As you continue reading, you will begin to see how African Americans were and still are oppressed in society.
How It Feels to be Colored Me and Underground are both related because they both in some way portray the life of blacks. Underground is a bit more elaborated in the sense that it has a stronger story line and comes from multiple point of views, while on the other hand, How It Feels to be Colored Me is told from the point of view of a young girl that does not even realize she is different until she has to leave her normal neighborhood and is amongst the “sharp white background”. These two pieces of work show oppression in a few ways. Hurston shows it when she steps outside of her neighborhood and is exposed to the real world and the slaves in Underground are treated poorly and live very oppressed lives.
A famous line from Hurston’s How It Feels to be Colored Me, “I feel most white when I am thrown against a sharp white background.” (Hurston p. 1) is a very powerful line because it helps describe oppression. The following lines, “For instance at Barnard. “Beside the waters of the Hudson” I feel my race. Among the thousand white persons, I am a dark rock surged upon, and over swept, but through it all, I remain myself. When covered by the waters, I am; and the ebb but reveals me again.” (Hurston, pg. 1) help explain and give a visual of oppression. When Hurston is alone or amongst people that look like her, she feels no difference. However, once she is around white people, it is their actions and society forms that help bring out the emotions and harsh reality of living in oppression. In today’s society there is something called _____. This is when the government works in a way that it subliminally contains African Americans to a specific area of town and make it hard for them to leave. Therefore, not allowing for many of the blacks to succeed in life. Some Caucasian Americans live thinking by the stereotypes of blacks and prefer not to live around them, this helps segregate the area.
Back in the day, living the life of a slave was not easy. You were constantly being told that you were someone’s property and that you were not even considered a whole person. In “I Don’t Believe in Doctors Much”: The Social Control of Health Care, Mistrust, and Folk Remedies in the African American Slave Narrative by Jennifer Bronson and Tariqah Nuriddin they have said, “The social control of human labor during slavery made it difficult if not nearly impossible for enslaved Africans in the Americas to lead both healthy and fulfilling lives.” (Bronson/Nuriddin, pg. 1) This is very true because the demand for slaves was so high in the south, every plantation owner wanted one. They would house their slaves in the worst of conditions. They wanted to keep their slaves alive but barely. Just enough so that they could do the work they were assigned to do. This would consist of feeding them nasty, almost animal like food with hardly any of the nutrients they really needed. With low self-esteem and hardly any food in their systems, they were not living to their fullest potentials. They were not being taken cared of enough that Bronson and Nuriddin say in their paper that, “Results indicated that formerly enslaved African Americans participated in an array of health practices including the elaborate use of herbs, roots, and potent elixirs to prevent and treat illnesses with or without the consent of their owners.” (Bronson/Nuriddin, pg. 1) The owners never really cared if their slaves got sick because they could always go and get another one. Most slave owners really treated their slaves like they were replaceable property.
Don Elligan and Shawn Utsey have composed a case study and wrote a paper on it afterwards called Utility of an African-Centered Support Group for African American Men Confronting Societal Racism and Oppression. This paper focuses on men in today’s society that are dealing with the way they are oppressed. A very shocking quote from this paper is, “African American men suffer from the chronic stressor of living in a racist and oppressive society. This condition has historical roots dating back to enslavement and deportation from Africa to America.” (Elligan/Utsey, pg. 1) This is a key quote because it helps illustrate that even though slaves were taken from their home and brought to America years and years ago, not a lot has changed from these living conditions. We are still not afforded the same opportunities as the white men are and this has led to a psychological issue for African American men. Elligan and Utsey states that, “Some of the psychosocial stresses that are indirectly exacerbated by societal racism and oppression directed against African American men include unemployment, poor education, and discrimination within the judicial system and incarceration.” (Elligan/Utsey, pg. 158) From the beginning of the slaves’ days over in America, they were not allowed to read and write so this left a lot of the slaves clueless on things that were going on and also different laws and things alike. Unemployment is something that you can reflect back on because even though slaves technically had jobs and were working for their masters, they were not getting paid and they really didn’t have a choice whether they wanted to work or not. This is not a life that slaves wanted to live.
Priscilla Wald wrote a piece on Hurston’s story and really focused and keyed in on Hurston’s famous “thrown against a sharp white background” line. Wald says, “Under the direction of Franz Boas, an early proponent of “cultural relativism,” Hurston learned to confound the categories of observer and observed and to examine the means by which culture shapes subjectivity.” (Wald, pg. 1) Huston talks a lot about how she didn’t feel “black” at all until she was around the white community. She was able to look at being black from two different viewpoints. Hurston is saying throughout her story that she can deal with the hurt that she feels and that she won’t warrant prejudice to demolish her character and personality. She says that she is not “tragically colored” and that she has no “great sorrow” springing up inside her. Hurston gives herself a chance to be presented to the world as opposed to restricted it to by prejudice.
Another piece of work that I am including into this paper is a piece by Kristin Shutts, called Young Children’s Preferences: Gender, Race, and Social Status. In this journal article, she says, “Research on children’s social categories reveals that gender-based social preferences emerge earlier than race-based preferences. Recent studies also show that children are attuned to social status, and the association of race with status differences could explain why race influences children’s social preferences.” This piece really helps us understand How It Feels to be Colored Me. Because this story is about a little girl we can understand that her age is a huge factor in her not really realizing that she is black, or even has a difference between the rest of the world except for the fact that she is a girl. Once she is exposed to the rest of the world, and can see the status difference that is when the realization comes out for her.
Overall, we can see that oppression is a thing that is intertwined amongst a lot of time but it’s nothing that we can just look over act like it does not happen. We see that it has happened to slaves, and people today. From young children to the oldest of adults, there is no mercy for redemption from oppression. These two pieces work really well together to help give a visual on this topic. Who is to say if things will ever change? The one thing I can say however, is that this will only make for more heartache and suffering for African Americans. Oppression is something that is meant to keep people down, but as generations continue, I think it will only start to fuel the drive for more self-appreciation in younger generations.
The Effects of Race on Self-Identity in Zora Hurston's Essay
The dictionary defines self-identity as The recognition of one’s potential and qualities as an individual, especially in relation to social context (Merriam-Webster). Zora Neal Hurston explores her own self-identity in the essay How it Feels Colored Me. Hurston was born on January 7, 1891, in Notasulga, Alabama, although she always considered Eatonville, FL her hometown (www.zoranealshurston.com).
The essay describes how the white society affects the author’s view of herself and her self-identity, and the way society’s opinion can inspire self-pride. Zora Hurston used variety of metaphors to explore and discuss her journey to develop her self-identity and self-pride.
Zora Hurston was living her life without any feelings of self-identity at her childhood when she was living in the Eatonville town, because she was with same colored people. So, she feels all the people looks like her and she believes everybody Zora. Only she saw some white people crossing the town, everybody else were same colored people. She was self-pride herself singing and dancing speak pieces(Hutson 1060) and comforting herself by watching on the road side actions in her front porch in that childhood time, but once she moved from her home town for schooling, she became colored girl. She says that . but I was their Zora nevertheless. I belonged to them, to the nearby hotels, to the countyeverybody’s Zora (Hurston 1060). When she departs away from home, she feels gratified with other African American people and she was a chameleon in between the black and white people that came through her town. . Hurston emphasizes the joy she felt in being an intermediary between her own culture and that of the white foreigners: (Heard 145). Hurston’s early experiences with two cultures, set her up to develop a confidence in herself and how she viewed her identity with both groups of people.
I started writing new, but my mind is not working Zora Hurston did not question her self-identity while she was growing up an Eatonville FL, because everyone looked like her and shared her culture. Zora Hurston was describing her everyday life in Eatonville where she had pleasant conversations with her neighbors, sang and danced on the streets of Eatonville; she observed her environment from a comfortable spot on her front porch. During that time, she was everybody’s Zora; free from the separation of feeling of different. Later on, she left home to attend a boarding school where she becomes a colored girl (Hurston 1060). She goes on to explain, . but I was their Zora nevertheless. I belonged to them, to the nearby hotels, to the countyeverybody’s Zora (Hurston 1060). When she departs away from home, she feels gratified with other African American people and she was a chameleon in between the black and white people that came through her town. . Hurston emphasizes the joy she felt in being an intermediary between her own culture and that of the white foreigners: (Heard 145). Hurston’s early experiences with two cultures, set her up to develop a confidence in herself and how she viewed her identity with both groups of people.
Zora Hurston’s strong self-identity allows her to feel proud of her race and her culture. Hurston stated that she does not see or consider herself tragically colored and begins weaving together self-representations based on her own ideas of herself that illustrates her self-pride. She is excessively caught up with “sharpening her oyster knife” to stop to consider the pain that discrimination may cause, and as a “dark rock surged upon” she raises all the deeper feelings for any hardships that she has needed to persevere in order to maintain her feeling of defiance in the face of that discrimination. Hurston does recognize the minutes when she feels her (or others’) racial variations and judgments, and her description of the difference between and her interactions with white customers and black customers at a jazz club demonstrates the separation between their lives (Hurston 1060). By becoming a sharp knife and a dark rock, she strengthened her resolve to be herself. Regardless of what other people thought about her and despite how they treated her, she always focused on what she wanted to do and they way she viewed herself.
Hurston builds up an expanded metaphor in which she matched and compared herself to a brown colored bag loaded down with arbitrary bits and weaves. She compares all people of different races to various colored bags that, if purged into an expansive heap and re-stuffed, would illustrate the fact that all people are the same. This illustrates that people, regardless of race, are basically of similar human character. Hurston finishes up by attesting that “the Great Stuffer of Bags,” the Maker, may have molded people this way from the beginning. Along these lines, Hurston cultivates a point of view that looks away from pride in one’s race to pride in one’s self (Hurston 1061). The metaphors of the colored bags represent Hurston’s opinion about race and how race should influence how people regard themselves, and how they should consider others. She clearly believes that the color of a person’s skin has no bearing on the character or worth of an individual. This further demonstrates Hurston’s strong sense of self and pride in who she is.
Zora Hurston describes her journey of self-discover, identity, and self-pride with metaphors that represent ideas of race and character and how those ideas both separate and connect American society. Zora Hurston struggles and comes to terms with society’s view of who she should be as an African American woman and her own ideals of self-identity and self-pride. Even though she was criticized by her own community for associating the white community, and while she didn’t really fit in to the white community, her self-pride was enough to inspire her own self-identity to have the confidence to bridge both sides. How It Feels to Be Colored Me is a combative poem that clearly did not fit with the philosophies of racial discrimination of the times, nor did it totally interlock with the blooming of black dominance of the arts related with the Harlem Renaissance. In the poem, Hurston divorces herself from “the sobbing school of Negrohood” (1060). Hurston that expects her to persistently make a case for over a wide span of time shameful acts. She can rest during the night realizing that she has carried on with an equitable life, never being scare of the “dark ghost” (Hurston 1060) that may wind up alongside her in bed. Through her clever words, Hurston conveys a great message of self-acceptance to challenge the attitudes of her time about race, culture, self-identity that we can apply to our times.
The Theme in How It Feels to Be Colored Me
Maya Angelou said: “we all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” In How It Feels to Be Colored Me Zora Neale Hurston toys with the idea that one may be able to channel an inner awareness acknowledging that one may embody two selves, two spiritual beings. Throughout the years, African Americans have faced injustice and unfortunately still do present day. Some carry the anger of slavery that their ancestors faced; some hide behind that anger and project their emotions differently.
Some are able to project a double consciousness of who they are and some find the strength and self-confidence to embrace individuality in their African American heritage. Hurston does just that, but identifies herself with the human race, rather than solely the race associated with the color of her skin. She states that she “has no separate feeling about being an American citizen and color” (Hurston 3). Illuminating the fact than despite events and beliefs that surround her, she is confident and finds comfort in who she is: “I am merely a fragment of the Great Souls that surges within the boundaries” (Hurston 3).
In How It Feels to Be Colored Me, Zora Neale Hurston presents the capacity of harboring strength and utilizing it for control in claiming who you are despite outer influences from those surrounding you. In her essay How It Feels to Be Colored Me, Hurston speaks of her memory as a thirteen years old growing up in Eatonville, Florida. Very subtlety she highlights events, memories from the “very day [she] became colored”(Hurston 1). Living in an exclusively colored town she noted that the only time white people would pass by was on their travels to and from Orlando. She describes the interactions between the whites passing by and the town’s people of Eatonville, highlighting the difference between the Southerners and Northerners. She notes that interaction with them seldom occurred, “they were peered at cautiously from behind curtains by the timid. The more venturesome would come out on the porch to watch them go past” (Hurston 1). A formal connection never made between the two, except for the ones that Hurston initiated. She did not see any differences between her and the white people passing through town, in fact she even spoke to them. But, “if one of [her] family happened to come to the front in to see [her], of course negotiations would be rudely broken off”(Hurston 1).
She acknowledges the differences between her family and herself partaking in social exchanges with whites, but never gives off any ideas or hints that she is ashamed of whom she is or the community that she and her loved ones embody. Zora Neale Hurston has worked on ethnographic texts that have given authors and researchers a more in depth perception on African Americans and all Americans living amongst one another (Lori Jirousek). Hurston states in her essay that she is “not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all” (Hurston 2). Using ethnographic context from Hurston, analyzers have been able to conclude that through How It Feels to Be Colored Me Hurston, “attempts to transcend race and avoid victim status”, “has an individualistic standpoint that not only emphasizes her own self-determination and self-definition, but also promotes those same qualities in others” and develops “a new definition of community that challenges […] boundedness of such categories as race and nation” (Jirousek).
Hurston illuminates the mere fact that what others may think or say about ones skin color cannot make one feel less than or inferior or unless he or she lets it. She does not let the mere fact that she is black belittle her in any shape or form. She grabs racism by the horns when stating “At certain times, I have no race, I am me” (Hurston 3). Her ability to channel self-confidence is what allows her to transcend race and its rubbish tendencies, develop and urgency towards self-definition and breaks the barriers between stereotypical sense of belonging between race and nations. Stating that she does “feel discriminated against, but it does not make [her] angry. It merely astonishes [her]” (Hurston 3). She continues to capitalize and assert her confidence in one sentence: “How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me” (Hurston 3).
Hurston worked on the establishment of “national coherence and solidarity” (Jirousek) by providing the shared relationship between an individual and their nation, something she broke through in her essay How It Feels to Be Colored Me. United States in the 1920’s was an era of injustice. Filled with many wrong doings on certain groups of people. Hurston alludes that she does not view herself any differently than her neighbor, “[she] has no separate feeling about being American and colored” (Hurston 3) as stated previously. She decided to not let outer influences have a say in the image she wants to create for herself and share with the world. She dives into her ancestry stating: “Someone is always at my elbow reminding me that I am the granddaughter of slaves. It fails to register depression with me. Slavery is sixty years in the past. The operation was successful and the patient is doing well, thank you (Hurston 2). The strength and resilience she embodies is what gives her the strength to look past that and recognize that she is equal to her fellow Americans no matter her the color of her skin or her ancestry.
Analysis Of How It Feels To Be Colored Me
Growing up in a small town full of white people I never felt different until I enter grade six. I started to realize I was so different from the majority of my classmate except some small percentage of kids that looked like me. I remember the first time I felt different and it was when a kid asked me why I had a towel in my head.
How It Feels to Be Colored Me by Zora Neale Hurston shares about how she never felt different until she was sent to a school in Jacksonville, a white community. This essay dealt with a time period after slavery was abolished, but discrimination and segregation were still present in people’s minds. As a colored writer, she was a credible source to share about racial barriers to sympathetic reader who want to embrace their differences. Through humor, anecdote, metaphor and imagery. Hurston addresses her personal experiences as a Negro.
Hurston begins her essay by telling stories of her childhood in Eatonville, Florida. People of color mostly populated Eatonville and when Hurston mother died, she was sent to a boarding school in Jacksonville where she felt colored. She remembers how white people liked to hear her ‘speak pieces’ and sing. As they rode through town. They wanted to see her dance the parse-me-la and paid her generously for it. This anecdote from the author gives the reader an understanding of Hurston’s perspective. She does not just inform us by using anecdote. Hurston effectively allows the audience to empathize with her youthful innocence.
Jacksonville shifted Hurston’s perspective: however, she still did not feel tragically colored. One of the appeals she uses in this passage is pathos. She did not weep at the world. Discrimination simply astonished her; she asked herself, How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company! It’s beyond me. Hurston used humor to emphasize her refusal to let discrimination and her differences make her insecure. Hurston makes this point clear by humorous exaggeration of her feelings.
Furthermore, Hurston delivers imagery throughout the passage by demonstrating the uses of feel and sense to lead to the finding of herself. She emphasizes on how she believes she is a part of America as a whole and not just simply a color. Hurston uses imagery to compare the culture of blacks between the white culture, which conveys that black culture is worth celebrating. Hurston takes the reader on a voyage that illustrates the finding of her self-identity.
Despite her feelings of pride, the author could not help feeling different, like she was thrown against a sharp white background. Occasionally, she realized that she was a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall, in the company of other bags of different colors. Nevertheless, she comprehended the similarity of their contents. This description gives vivid imagery for the author’s thoughts. The author uses these metaphors to underscore her isolation, which makes her revelation even more meaningful: physical features may be diverging, but people share the same essence.
Hurston uses these rhetorical devices to add and further her opinion. It added another dimension to her writing by combining rationale, imagery, and motivation with perspective.
Main Motive Of Zora Neale Hurston's Essay
In How It Feels to Be Colored Me, Zora Neale Hurston describes her feelings and experiences in the twenty’s century from the examples of her own life as colored person. I had to read her essay few times before I can understand all the metaphor’s that she used thru out her work. She starts her story with the fact that she is the only Negro that have no native Americans ancestors.
Hurston grew up in a small solely colored town in Orange County Florida where she did not have to worry about her skin color. The only white people she has seen was the ones who passed thru the city going or coming from Orlando. No one cared for Southern whites they were closer socioeconomically to blacks because they rode dusty horses thru town, but Northern tourists were actually something else because they drove automobiles, so the only difference Hurston had seen there is the lower or upper class of people not the color.
Later in the story author moves to Jacksonville, Florida at the age of thirteen where she first saw diverse population. But she rejected to be tragically colored. She states that she doesn’t belong in the Negrohood school where the colored people feel down about the way society look at them, they hate the world and feel sorry about the fact that they black. Hurston sees herself different. She doesn’t mind being black, she proud of it. No, I do not weep at the world-I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife (Hurston 1289). She sees a big race difference when she goes to listen jazz with her white friend. Hurston experience something unbelievable when she listens to the music; her emotions are going up and down, she sees different colors of the music, she wants to dance, jump, scream and when she looks at her white friend, he calmly seats smoking his cigarette. He has only heard what I felt (Hurston 1291)
Hurston ends her story by using the metaphor of colored bags to describe people. She believes that persons skin color doesn’t justify certain thoughts, actions, emotions, or talents. As long as black people have the same opportunities as white people, they can obtain the same experiences and abilities. The main idea of the colored bags metaphor is to show us that we are all like bags; full of desires, disappointments, hopes, love and hate and so on. If we were to take everything out of those bags, the skin color wouldn’t matter anymore because all of us would be the same.
An Idea Of Race In Hurston's Essay
Hurston feels her race does not affect the person that she claims to be, yet it affects people’s perspective of her.Hurston specifically complains about the tendency to overemphasize the legacy of slavery, which she dismisses and dehumanizes by placing it sixty year in her past. She describes centuries of slavery as a horrible lifestyle of sacrifice so that African Americans could have a chance at freedom and a new opportunity in life. Above intolerance, people often stereotype others due to ethnicity.
Hurston claims to remember the first day she became colored, which occurred when she was thirteen. However, race can be more a matter of social reinforcement. In short, she did not feel colored until people made her feel like she was. Her appeal to pathos is mainly a refusal to be horribly colored, which appeals to the way her audience admires the strength of her character. The insistence on people being individuals rather than begin defined by race and the sympathy. She shares “her” point of view leading to the final disagreement that people should not be defined merely by skin color but by all the complex elements of their character. Hurston divorces herself from the sobbing school of Negrohood that requires her to continually lay claim to past and present injustices. She can sleep at night knowing that she has lived a righteous life, never fearing that some dark ghost might end up next to her in bed.
Through her witty words, Hurston delivers a powerful message to challenge the mindsets of her, and our, time. Hurston uses an anecdote when she stated, I remember the day that I became colored, I was not Zora of Orange Country anymore, I was now a little colored girl. Hurston is showing her love of her culture and her recognition of her color. Simultaneously Hurston also believed the only difference between white and black people was that white people would pass through town but never stay. Even so, she would perform for the white tourist, singing, and dancing, which they would sometime reward with dimes. This surprised her because performing was something she would do anyways. The black locals did not once think about paying her for a song, but she knew that they had cared and supported her anyway. In her childhood, Hurston was protected from the worst derivative statements as she lived in an all-black environment. Through performance for the white tourist, she starts to detect a difference in the white visitors, one is with them having money, and the financial stability to pay for art and entertainment.
One way to evaluate the problem is a simple comparison between the two lifestyles (black and white). When she decides to compare herself to a white person in a jazz club, she feels as though she is superior in the way that she can immerse herself in the music. While Hurston was in a trance, her friend had been smoking calmly. He seemed unfazed by music, giving an inadequate compliment. Hurston sees him as if across a continent and described him as pale with his whiteness in a way that lacks passion and vitality. At other times, Hurston feels like she has no race. She feels expression of eternal femininity or just one fragment of a Great Soul. When she walks the streets, she feels snooty and aristocratic. Of course, she experiences racism, but she only pities the racist for depriving themselves of her company.
Hurston isn’t limited by her black identity, as she also embraces her female identity, or at times, simply disavows identity although to be a piece of the Great Soul. Her efforts to pick up or put down identities at will benefit her from a sort of performance. Hurston describes herself as a brown bag among white, yellow, and red bags. Each bag has a jumble of contents both marvelous and ordinary, such as a first water diamond or a dried flower or two still a little fragrant. The different colored bags are Hurston’s central metaphor for her mature understanding of race. The color of the bag corresponds to skin color and external appearance, and the varied contents represent thoughts, memories, emotions, and experiences particular to each individual. The contents Hurston describes are both beautiful and mundane, but they all surpass the exterior of the bags in specificity of detail.
Hurston seems to say that this internal content is much more important and much more interesting than a flat, one-word description of the skin. After making the realization that she is in fact of color and of the consequences regarding this fact, she makes a clear distinction between herself as a person of color and “the sobbing school of Negrohood” (1984). Here she exhibits an ambition that carries her past the obstacles that both then and now face African Americans during their lifetimes. Having an outspoken, high spirited, and ambitious personality, Hurston could obtain an education and explored the complexities of African-American society through her research and writing. Above the intolerance, people often stereotype others due to race.
Zora Neale Hurston: An Alchemist of Modernism
In “Sweat” and the accounts of Zora Neale Hurston in, “How It Feels To Be Colored Me”, there are many elements of the modernist period in play. The most important being the welfare state of African Americans in America at that point in time. However, Hurston’s effortless depiction of the lives of African Americans during her time, her constant use of female African Americans in her stories to progress feminism, and her influence towards other authors during the Harlem Renaissance makes her one of, if not the biggest, contributor to the Modernist movement. During Hurston’s time there were many other pioneers of the Harlem Renaissance, like Langston Hughes and W.E.B. Du Bois, whom Hurston worked with, but what separated Hurston from the pack is the versatility she displays in her writing.
An approach to writing that is inclusive to those who are voiceless, was the ultimate end goal of Hurston’s writing, to represent for those who can’t do it themselves. During Hurston’s time she helped illuminate the identity of all African Americans, not just African American men. Hurston published, “How It Feels To Be Colored Me”, in 1928, a time America still stood in the dark shadow casted by the history of slavery. Hurston’s parents were slaves, so she understood the huge psychological repercussions of living in a post-genocidal culture, and then magically trying to integrate into that same society which only one generation previously, viewed you as property, but most importantly not human. The African American identity was left in shambles, but Hurston understood that in order for African Americans to keep moving forward, they had to have an idea of who they were before slavery. “ Slavery was the price I paid for civilization, and the choice was not mine.”(3). Hurston inserts the reader into her direct stream of consciousness, and her explanation of the destruction of her ancestor’s identity is spot on. This assertion of having a past heritage prior to slavery as a means of African American progression aligns with W.E.B. Dubois, in terms of the education involved with it, but as for regaining the identity, that idea belongs to Hurston. During the same time women in America had just gained the right to suffrage, but African American men and women were far away from that point. Harlem had many male African American writers, but for women, there wasn’t as much. Yet it is the scrutiny of African American women that Hurston sheds light on, “ It is thrilling to know that for any act of mine, I shall get twice as much praise, or twice as much blame”(3). The judgement Hurston refers to is the gender bias in post-slavery America, particularly in the African American community. A man who isn’t the bread winner in the family will get scrutinized much like the criticism Sykes gets from Moss. “ Syke Jones aint wuth de shot an powder hit would tek tuh kill em. Not to huh he aint”(6). Delia is known to her town as the breadwinner of her household, everyone there knows that, but the town also knows about the nature of Sykes, and because of that, Delia is judged for being with him. Like Hurston says about the double edged sword of judgement, it is great when it is in your favor, but it also cuts very deep when it is pointed at you. The identity crisis comes forth in this sense, because if the men who were joking about Sykes had a true sense of identity, they wouldn’t focus on Sykes, but instead put Delia on the pedestal she deserves to be on. Another important ideological reprocussion of slavery that Hurston focuses on is the infantilization of African Americans. After generations of slavery, and being told you’re not capable of basic thinking, there are bound to be deep psychological wounds that need healing. Hurston’s first hand account of that feeling brings out the trauma, “ I feel most colored when thrown against a sharp white background” (3). Her description of the background as sharp exemplifies the trauma mentioned above. Living in a world meant for white people literally cut into the psyche of African Americans, and the only cure for those cuts, was to reform the African American identity. America created a psychological hierarchy in order to ensure the continuity of white dominance and Hurston reimagines this constant horror as the snake that Sykes brings home. Both the horror of white dominance and the snake share many characteristics. Like the snake in the cage, the threat of white violence was always there, always ready to strike in a moments notice, given the opportunity. The snake also stays in the house for a week, and Delia is forced to live with that threat around her, but she must act as if there is no plausible threat, as if everything is fine. The reader is injected into Delia’s indirect stream of consciousness to understand her feelings towards the snake, “She stayed for a long time in the doorway in a red fury that grew bloodier for every second that she regarded the creature that was her torment”(6). Regarding the female African American identity, Delia is written as a strong woman, who can not only withstand the tension and violence of the snake, she is capable of wielding the horror of the snake in her favor. On the surface, Delia seems like the ordinary hero of the story who walks with no fear, yet she does feel fear, it is what drives her on the inside. Delia is aware of the danger and the fear of being around the snake, but she remains herself at all times, adapting to the situation. This scene metaphorized Delia into the identity of the African American woman, and the snake into oppressive force trying to keep that identity at bay. Delia is strong, her will can’t be broken as easily as it could before. The snake is trying to impose who Delia should be, but as dangerous as the snake is, it is caged, Delia isn’t afraid of the snake’s poison. Delia is truly her own person, and has a concrete identity. Hurston creates a concrete identity of the African American woman through her work of fiction, the Harlem Renaissance, Modernism, and a few branches over, feminism all benefit greatly from this characterization of Delia, because her traits embody the characteristics of those movements.
From a feminist perspective Delia is a great example of the progression of African American women. Eerily similar to Hurston, Delia must also works towards building her identity, as well as her income. The 1920’s was a great time for the white american and woman, but the economy was not in favor of the African American. So for Delia, an African American woman, to have her her own property is outstanding, and just like her identity she has to work hard and “sweat” for it. When Sykes condescendingly scolds Delia about her work, she rebuttals perfectly. “Mah sweat is done paid for this place and ah reckon ah kin keep on sweatin it”(2). Delia never asked to be placed in this line of judgement, but she makes the best of it. The term, “sweat” takes up many new forms in this line.
The first form being the sweat that it takes to work hard for an income, and to be able to withstand the scolding of Sykes. Yet why does Delia sweat for Sykes? Simply put, because she must. Hurston uses Sykes to resemble the lack of male African American identity, and the state of infantilization they faced post-slavery. Sykes is so uneducated about his self-worth that his only option is to bite the hand that feeds him, his actions resemble that of a child. The second form is the literal sweat poured in towards the creation of a concrete African American identity, and the mental frustration of being at the bottom of the food chain, working and sweating away, only to still be considered less than human. All forms point towards the manifestation of an African American identity that has finally emerged from the slums of slavery and enduring the unjust conditions of sharecropping. Hurston’s ability to shape this identity is one of the most critical literary contributions of the Modernist period, because it is reclaiming for African Americans, who for the better part of their time in America, didn’t even know their own name. Hurston gives names to the nameless, and a voice to the voiceless.
Hurston’s inclusion of the African American woman into her shaping of the new African American identity still remains as a foundational platform which more authors have built upon, but Delia as the first brick in that pillar is only too fitting. Delia exhibits and incorporates many traits of the Modernist period, like feminism for example. As a feminist, Delia flourishes as a strong woman, and the difficulties she faces from being a woman as well only contribute to the intersectionality concepts of Hurston’s work. Feminism, progression as an intellectual society, acknowledging the scars of slavery, surely these are staples of the American modernist movement.
The Harlem Renaissance as a whole would not have been the same without Zora Neale Hurston, her influence on her counterparts as a mentor cannot be understated, so she is without a doubt a founder of the conscious emancipation of the African American that helped form the new identity. It is also important to mention the help of her famous colleagues, like Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, as vital minds of the Renaissance as well, but it is the inclusion of feminism which sets Hurston above her class of African American intellectuals. The 1920’s was a booming time for white feminism in America, so for Hurston to combine her feminism with all the other aspects of modernism, makes it one of the most substantial intellectual achievements of the 20th century.