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

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In lines 57-59 of "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," what exactly does Hurston mean when she says, "No brown specter pulls up a chair beside me when I sit down to eat. No dark ghost thrusts its leg against mine in bed."

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Mary Sutton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Though it is possible to read "brown specters," as the previous Educators do, as an indicator of the guilt that white people felt over the nation's legacy of slavery and injustice toward black people, I read the line quite differently.

Hurston compares her more bountiful situation to that of her "white neighbor." Her feeling of what it is to be black is not sorrowful or depressing. She is not sad about being the descendant of slaves but sees the condition as the "price [she] paid for civilization." According to Hurston, 1928 (when the essay was written) is a thrilling time, for any act of hers is likely to "get twice as much praise and twice as much blame." The world is finally attentive to black people as individual actors with agency over their own progress.

The position of her "white neighbor" at this time is that of fear. Hurston may have been subtly referencing the revival of lynching and the Ku Klux Klan throughout the United States, both forms of resistance against black progress....

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