This Black History Month I’m Grateful for Zora Neale Hurston
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’s beyond me.”
-Zora Neale Hurston
Hurston was the kind of multitalented thinker who helped
validate the name of the Harlem Renaissance. At various points in her life,
Hurston was best known for being a prominent anthropologist, highly acclaimed author
and a dedicated folklorist.
With her fictionalized books being rooted in specific
real-life experience, Hurston paved the way for contemporary writers like Alice
Walker, Jodi Picoult and Toni Morrison. Hurston’s ability to translate spoken
diction into written language helped introduce an authentic Southern Black
vernacular into traditional literary forms. The richness of Hurston’s language
seemed to move her beyond the dialect poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar and
Langston Hughes who also attempted to represent the spoken voices of the south.
Despite having once been out of print, Hurston is now
considered an artistic foremother for feminist and womanist writers, thanks to
Walker’s efforts at reclaiming Hurston’s legacy. In the past forty years,
Hurston has moved from being virtually forgotten to holding a prominent place
in the American literary canon.
Hurston’s novels are among the earliest
examples of Black women existing in the center of their own stories. Her female
characters may be buffeted by the harsh winds of racism, poverty and sexism by
their dignity remains intact.
Today, I am grateful for Zora Neale Hurston. You should be