Why does Hurtson insist that one becomes colored? What happened on that day to make her colored?
According to her essay, Hurston grew up in an all Negro town called Eatonville, Florida. The only white people she encountered were those who passed through her little community. She welcomed their visits because they appreciated her speech giving, singing, and dancing so much that they rewarded her with coins.
When she turned 13, Hurston was sent to boarding school in nearby Jacksonville. Hurston says in the essay "I left Eatonville, the town of oleanders, as Zora. When I disembarked from the river-boat in Jacksonville, she was no more. It seemed that I had suffered a sea change. I was not Zora of Orange County any more, I was now a little colored girl."
Hurston's quote suggests that in the all black community of Eatonville, race was something the residents did not care about or even discuss. In her hometown, Zora was viewed as an outgoing child of many talents. In the essay, Hurston writes, "They deplored any joyful tendencies in me, but I was their Zora nevertheless."
Jacksonville was a much larger community than Hurston's little country town. Born in 1891, Hurston would have arrived in her new home in 1904. Although it is not described explicitly in the essay, one can assume the city followed the common segregation practices of the Jim Crow era. Therefore, Zora became colored when how she was treated was determined by the color of her skin instead of the brightness of her character.