What is the purpose of Zora Neale Hurston's "How It Feels to Be Colored Me"?
Hurston's purpose in writing "How it Feels to be Colored like Me" is to assert her pride in being black. She pushes back against the idea, articulated by many of her black friends during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, that segregation and racial discrimination harmed the black soul and needed to be addressed. She dismisses race, saying she is just a part of the greater jumble of American diversity.
She doesn't feel alienated or left out of the American experience because of being black, writing:
I am merely a fragment of the Great Soul that surges within the boundaries. My country, right...
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If you feel uncertain that Hurston is asserting her pride in her ethnicity, then you have gotten her message! Throughout the essay she points to her feelings of being herself, an individual, much more than she feels a member of a specific race, or "granddaughter to slaves". She does mention instances when she “feels colored”, but her strongest experiences of being fully alive are when she swings down the boulevard in Harlem, charged by the adventure of being young and strong and “the eternal feminine”, an inner-circle member of the family of humankind. She even states that she doesn’t feel particularly American--nothing that specific, even though she was born here--but part of something much greater. That ardor of belonging to the wider world, and being at home in it, is more central to who she is than the labels or culture of any one ethnicity.