Thursday, January 21, 2010

Zora Neale Hurston: I Am Not Tragically Colored

I've been heavily into the writings of and biographies about Zora Neale Hurston, novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist, lately for personal reasons. Her saying "I am not tragically colored" is a quote sticking in my mind.

Hurston was politically conservative, opposed to FDR's New Deal, and yet she took a job with the WPA, the largest New Deal agency, and died in a St. Lucie County Welfare Home. She was forced to enter it because she was poor, ill, and possibly too proud to contact friends and family to tell them of her plight. She died in 1960.

"A collection was taken up for her funeral, and she was buried in an unmarked grave in the segregated cemetery Garden of Heavenly Rest in Ft. Pierce." (Link) Learning this, Alice Walker went to the general area of the cemetery where Hurston was buried and, at her own expense, gave her a gravestone.

Long after her death, Zora, in many ways, saved the town where she grew up, Eatonville, Fla. It holds an annual festival in her name January 23-31. She was a genius and like most geniuses, full of contradictions.

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