Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Dust Tracks on a Road is Zora Neale Hurston's autobiography, chronicling her early childhood in the rural South, but mainly focusing on her adult experiences of being a woman, an African-American, and an aspiring artist. These identities inform Hurston's attitude as she moves from the Jim Crow law South to New York City, where she becomes a key figure in the revolutionary, predominantly African-American intellectual and cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. Hurston interprets much of her artistic spirit as a natural, defensive reaction to the oppression of black narratives.
Heavily censored by its publishers, the autobiography's original form constituted an excoriation of ideological and physical colonialism levied by a white nationalist United States on both domestic and foreign cultures. Using her platform not mainly for self reflection, but rather for the recollection of observations about race-related historical and cultural oppression, Hurston shifts somewhat unpredictably between objects of criticism. She goes from condemning hate crimes and systemic injustices against people of color in the United States to the country's assertion of exploitative and imperialist agendas in Asia.
Much analysis of Dust Tracks on a Road can be done not only on its content, but on its status as a living document, having been both effaced and restored by various publishers and other parties over the 60+ years since its 1952 publication. The history of the modifications made to the original text have formed a kind of literary sediment that reflects America's ever-shifting and self-concealing forms of ideological suppression.