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Black Conservatives

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Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston. Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, courtesy of the Granger Collection, New York.

Unlike many, if not most of her contemporaries, Zora Neale Hurston grew up under largely favorable circumstances. Her father was a three-term mayor of Eatonville, Florida, a self-contained black town that was one of the country's most prosperous. Hurston's esteem for the city (and perhaps by extension, the country) greatly informed her work—scholar OluwaTosin Adegbola writes in the Encyclopedia of African American History that Hurston was "unrelenting in her portrayal of African Americans as people who were not marginalized"—though many of her critics viewed Hurston as ignorant of the typical African American experience. She remained steadfast in her belief that black self-sufficiency could be obtained without government intervention, and in 1955 authored a letter to the editor in the Orlando Sentinel arguing against Brown v. Board of Education, rejecting the ruling as irredeemably condescending. "Since the days of the never-to-be-sufficiently-deplored Reconstruction," she writes, "there has been current the belief that there is no greater delight to Negroes than the physical association with whites . . . I can see no tragedy in being too dark to be invited to a white school social affair."

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