Zora Neale Hurston first learned that she was "colored" when she was sent to school in Jacksonville at age thirteen. Until that time, she had lived a sheltered life in the all-Black town of Eatonville, Florida. There, she was simply Zora, seen as a distinct individual. Once she entered Jacksonville, she realized her race obliterated her identity: she was a "little colored girl" rather than Zora.
Hurston, however, makes it clear that she knew there was a distinction between races while growing up in Eatonville. White tourists would come through in their cars. As a child, Hurston enjoyed that. She could talk to them or dance for them, and they would give her money, which she found a marvelous treat. Nevertheless, these encounters did not leave her with a full awareness that she was part of a race with second-class citizenship in the United States.
Hurston states that while she became aware of implications of being a "brown" person while living in Jacksonville, she also made the decision not to let her race or racism hold her back. The essay focuses on her optimistic, energetic, and determined outlook on life despite her race. As for racism, Hurston does not deny its existence; she merely describes it as foolish, writing,
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.