What is Hurston's purpose for writing "How It Feels to Be Colored Me"?

Zora Neale Hurston's main purpose in writing "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" is to put forward a positive perspective on race and her experience of being Black in America and to refute narratives of victimhood.

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The reader of current critical race theory who knows only the title of Zora Neale Hurston's "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" is likely to be completely wrong about what the essay contains. The reader will likely expect a litany of horrors in which the author suffers all the oppression and prejudice that undoubtedly would have been the lot of an African American born in the late nineteenth century, when slavery was still well within living memory.

Instead, Hurston's essay is relentlessly cheerful and positive. She laughs at racism as an absurdity which harms and degrades the racist. Above all, she refuses to occupy the role of victim. When she describes performing for white tourists as a child, she does not say that she feels humiliated by making an exhibition of herself. On the contrary, she enjoyed it and would have required payment not to put on these performances.

The purpose of writing this is to provide an alternative, positive perspective on the experience of being Black in America, one which is not revealed by "the sobbing school of Negrohood" who portray it as a tragedy to have been born African American. By writing in this upbeat, rather flippant manner, Hurston claims agency over her life, deciding that it is a comedy rather than a tragedy.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 18, 2021
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