How does Hurston feel about being "colored"?

In "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," Hurston expresses that she has positive feelings about being "colored" and refuses to complain about it or let it hold her back.

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Hurston conveys positive feelings about being "colored" in her essay. She learns at age thirteen, when she goes to school in Jacksonville, that her individual identity as Zora is erased under the label of being colored; but that knowledge does not hold her back. She also realizes that she is sometimes discriminated against or rejected because of her race, but she writes this off as the other person's loss.

Hurston implies that living as Black person in New York City in the 1920s gives her the best of both the white and Black worlds. She takes classes as the white Barnard College, once the woman's college portion of Columbia University, but is also able to enjoy jazz music in a deep way that white people cannot enter into.

Hurston also asserts that there is no difference in inner self between the different races, be they white, Native American, Black, or Asian. She writes,

I have no separate feeling about being an American citizen and colored. I am merely a fragment of the Great Soul that surges within the boundaries.

This is an allusion to Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself," but also a rebuke to her friend Langston Hughes, who wrote poems that pushed back against Whitman's notion of universal Americanism. Hughes, as a Black man, did not feel Whitman's sense of being part of the large US culture. Hurston, in contrast, refuses to let her color stand in her way.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 17, 2021
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