illustrated portrait of African American author Zora Neale Hurston

How It Feels to Be Colored Me

by Zora Neale Hurston

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How does Hurston characterize herself as a child in "How It Feels to Be Colored Me"?

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Zora Neale Hurston reveals herself as an extroverted child in the beginning of this essay.  She tells a story about when white travelers would pass through her small town of Eatonville, Florida, significant for the fact that is was "exclusively a colored town."  As the travelers would pass little Zora, she would be sitting on the front porch, or more daringly, the gate-post, which she describes as her stage, "Proscenium box for a born first-nighter."  There, she would wave to the curious onlookers, speaking to them, and if they spoke back, she would "'go a piece of the way' with them."  Her family did not approve of her actions, so if she were caught, she would be stuck at home on the porch, at least able to see the show if not participate in it.  

Since this essay is more than a memoir, Hurston reveals that she believes her ease with the white community comes from the fact that she did not understand racism and discrimination until her mother died, and she was made to move from the shelter of Eatonville.  But by that time, when Hurston was 13, she had already established her belief system, and that confidence in herself and her identity would last the rest of her life.  She reveals another instance of her confidence later in the piece when she speaks of discrimination:

Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me.

While that confidence and manner sometimes ostracized her from other Harlem Renaissance writers, particularly Langston Hughes, it certainly gave her the needed confidence to write how she saw the world, and as she says, "My country, right or wrong."

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