How It Feels to Be Colored Me Questions and Answers
by Zora Neale Hurston

How It Feels to Be Colored Me book cover
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Describe the contrast in How It Feels to Be Colored Me between Zora's and others' attitudes toward the white travelers passing through town? What does this reveal about her age?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Zora describes the other people in her black town as watching the whites who drive through town from behind their curtains, not wanting to interact with them. She, on the other hand, having as of yet no sense of inferiority, no sense of being "colored" in a white world, likes to greet and welcome the white folk. As she puts it,

I usually spoke to them in passing. I'd wave at them and when they returned my salute, I would say something like this: "Howdy-do-well-I-thank-you-where-you-goin'?" Usually automobile or the horse paused at this, and after a queer exchange of compliments, I would probably "go a piece of the way" with them, as we say in farthest Florida.

Zora would also sing and dance for the whites, who would pay her in "dimes" for her performances. However, if her family members saw her having these kinds of interactions, they would pull her away. She says the other townspeople "deplored" her friendliness, but they loved her all the same.

At this time, the child Zora, not understanding racism, couldn't know that the whites might be laughing at her or looking down on her for her song and dance routines. She was an open-hearted girl who was not afraid of whites, as her friends and relatives were. Even after she discovered her difference, she was determined that she was not going to let it get her down or keep her down.

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Kitty Sharp eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," Zora Neale Hurston describes her early childhood in Florida.  She says that the only white persons around were those who drove through town on their way somewhere else.  Many neighbors went indoors when the whites drove through the streets, but some more adventurous people watched them from their front porches.  Hurston says that she was very bold and adventurous and that she would sing and dance for the whites and they would reward her with coins (or pay her to stop).  Hurston says in the essay that she left this part of Florida when she was thirteen years old, so she must have been younger than thirteen when she describes the whites coming through town.  Her youth, innocence, and inexperience cause her to feel safe in her town, so she behaves as such.  This, however, changes once she moves away.

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