January 21, 2022

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E-book Assessment: ‘You Don’t Know Us Negroes,’ by Zora Neale Hurston

Book Review: ‘You Don’t Know Us Negroes,’ by Zora Neale Hurston

The essays vary from the well-known (“What White Publishers Gained’t Print,” “Excessive John de Conquer,” “How It Feels to Be Coloured Me”) to the never-before-published, just like the title essay. “You Don’t Know Us Negroes” posits that white fiction authors are woefully ignorant concerning the true lives of Black folks, and that as a substitute of searching for to be taught, they rely of their tales upon delusion, stereotype and misrepresentation. Implicit in her argument is a dedication to Black tradition that’s decidedly out of line with nearly all of white Western thought from the early to mid-Twentieth century.

Particularly hanging right here is the breadth of Hurston’s mind on show. She peppers her essays with such exhaustive literary, historic, biographical, political, creative, academic, spiritual references that if readers have been merely to observe the footnotes alone (as compiled by West and Gates), they’d achieve a worthwhile training.

Hurston’s information was matched solely by her conviction. She is unapologetic and unbridled as she dares to name all topics her enterprise, even those who may give others pause at this time: just like the “Pet Negro” system within the South, whereby a white supremacist takes a liking to and helps one Black particular person specifically. About “this underground hookup,” Hurston writes, “Who am I to go judgment? … It weaves a type of fundamental material that tends to stabilize relations and provides one thing to work from in changes.” She finds the Brown v. Board of Training choice an insult as a result of it challenges the concepts and establishments which have sustained Black folks for hundreds of years. If, she asks, the one good of integration was to have Black and white youngsters seated facet by facet, then what was the purpose?

Readers acquainted with Hurston’s work will observe the continued signatures of her voice in these essays: the sassiness, the boldness to take to job these establishments or people who, in her thoughts, would exploit lesser-informed African People. She decries the promoting of Black votes within the 1950 Florida main, in echoes of Reconstruction-era politics; and her criticism of what she calls the “Begging Joint” colleges: these unexpectedly fashioned so-called establishments of upper studying for Black college students within the South whose main goal appears to be the gathering of funds from white philanthropists.

Wedding ceremony mental criticism to geographical motion as she travels the nation — from Ohio to New York to Florida — she observes and feedback on matters related to the political and social development of African People, such because the Ohio senator Robert A. Taft’s health to be president of america, or the trial she lined in Dwell Oak, Fla., in 1952. All of Half 5 is devoted to this courtroom case, wherein Ruby McCollum, a rich African American lady, shot and killed Dr. C. LeRoy Adams, a well known white doctor and politician. Having coerced McCollum into sexual relations in change for medical remedy over a interval of years, Adams impregnated her twice; one being pregnant resulted within the beginning of a daughter, and the opposite was aborted. In making an attempt to know McCollum, whose trial Hurston attended however whom she was not capable of interview, Hurston invokes her personal interior visions and life experiences, as informed in her 1942 autobiography, “Dust Tracks on a Road,” in addition to in her portrayal of Janie Crawford in “Their Eyes Have been Watching God” (1937). Her personal recollections assist her to sketch what she surmises McCollum will need to have thought and felt with Adams and through her trial. There are questions of poetic license, however they don’t take away from this partaking and interesting story of race and sexual exploitation within the Deep South.

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