August 13, 2009

Thus Spake Zora

At City Journal, John McWhorter visits the inspiring life of Zora Neale Hurston.

Thus Spake Zora
Zora Neale Hurston’s writing challenged black people as well as white.

One of the last photos of Zora Neale Hurston, taken in the late fifties, is heartrending. Once renowned as a handsome figure who could dominate any room, she sits outside a Florida bungalow, a bloated old woman living in poverty, chatting with locals. As sanguine as she looks, we can’t help wishing that she had been in New York, plugging her latest novel on The Jack Paar Show. But all her books were out of print, and she was supporting herself on piddling jobs, including working as a maid (not for the first time). She seems to have reached the state of mind that her character Janie describes at the end of her masterwork, Their Eyes Were Watching God: “Ah done been tuh de horizon and back and now Ah kin set heah in mah house and live by comparisons.”
Hurston decried the assumption that successful blacks were somehow “beside the point,” arguing that “these comfortable, contented Negros are as real as the sharecroppers.” In saying that the black vote should not be one “dark, amorphous lump,” she anticipated today’s black conservatives in pointing out the pitfalls of reflexively supporting one party: “It’s time for us to cease to allow ourselves to be delivered as a mob by persuasive ‘friends’ and become individual citizens.”

"Now, suppose a Negro does something really magnificent, and I glory, not in the benefit to mankind, but in the fact that the doer was a Negro. Must I not also go hang my head in shame when a member of my race does something execrable? . . . The white race did not go into a laboratory and invent incandescent light. That was Edison. . . . If you are under the impression that every white man is an Edison, just look around a bit."
Please, do yourself a favor and read the entire article by clicking the link below.

Thus Spake Zora by John H. McWhorter, City Journal Summer 2009


Caeseria said...

What a wise lady.

Opus #6 said...

"Become individual citizens" huh? Sorry. I'm gonna have to report her writings to!

Anonymous said...

Cassie, this is one of those rare instances when the photos reveal almost as much as McWhorter's words.

Anonymous said...

Opie, by now you must have those folks on some sorta speed-dial.

The_Kid said...

I've heard a lot actually about important black people trying to convey to others that they realize the Democrats have played them for fools since day one.

God Speed Men and Women !

The evidence is easy to find.

Wetzy said...

I guess its time for me to read one of her books.

Anonymous said...


It's probably time you read any kind of book. Try one with pictures.

lovelyprism said...

A lovely sentiment. Wish I had read this before I went to Barnes and Noble tonight.

Anonymous said...


I'm heading for Border's tomorrow. Great minds think alike.