Introduction to How It Feels to Be Colored Me

“How It Feels to Be Colored Me” is a widely anthologized descriptive essay in which Zora Neale Hurston explores the discovery of her identity and self-pride. Following the conventions of description, Hurston employs colorful diction, imagery, and figurative language to take the reader on this journey. She begins with her childhood in the Black community of Eatonville, Florida, where she was “everybody’s Zora,” and recounts the first time she became aware of herself as “colored”: the day she arrived at boarding school in Jacksonville at age thirteen. Despite the legacies of slavery and racism, however, Hurston does not consider herself “tragically colored,” nor does she maintain a constant awareness of her race. Rather, Hurston is simply herself, and she prefers not to dwell on the past or “weep at the world.” She concludes the essay with the memorable image of herself as a “brown bag of miscellany,” filled—like a bag of any other color—with a random assortment of items. If all the bags were emptied, she speculates, their contents would be indistinguishable from one another.

First published in World Tomorrow magazine in 1928, “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” is considered a representative piece of Harlem Renaissance literature and remains one of Zora Neale Hurston’s best-known works today.

A Brief Biography of Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960), like so many writers, was ahead of her time and not fully appreciated by her contemporaries, but she is now considered one of the most important Black American women of the twentieth century. Her most famous work is the 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. One of its key (but controversial) features was the use of dialogue in a Black American dialect. Though some critics at the time, including many from the Black community, viewed the novel’s dialogue as caricatured, it would become a celebrated trademark of Hurston’s writing. Her uncompromising novels later influenced seminal Black writers such as Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Alice Walker.

Frequently Asked Questions about How It Feels to Be Colored Me

How It Feels to Be Colored Me

Hurston contrasts her attitude toward being Black to those of other Black people she knows. She calls them "the sobbing school of Negrohood." In contrast to them, Hurston states that she is not...

Latest answer posted February 17, 2021, 12:21 pm (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

Because Hurston is writing from her own perspective in "How It Feels to Be Colored Like Me," the characterization in this essay involves Hurston characterizing herself. Hurston presents herself as...

Latest answer posted February 18, 2021, 1:31 pm (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

Zora Neale Hurston states she is always being reminded she is the granddaughter of slaves. She says this does not leave her depressed because slavery ended sixty years ago. She notes that a war was...

Latest answer posted February 17, 2021, 12:01 pm (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

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...

Latest answer posted February 17, 2021, 12:35 pm (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

Hurston describes growing up in the all-Black town of Eatonville, Florida, where she was seen in the community as a distinct individual. However, at age thirteen, undisclosed "changes" come to her...

Latest answer posted February 18, 2021, 11:39 am (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

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...

Latest answer posted February 18, 2021, 6:13 pm (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

Hurston writes "How it Feels to Be Colored Me" from the first-person perspective. Specifically, she is writing from her point of view as an exceptionally talented young Black woman experiencing the...

Latest answer posted February 18, 2021, 11:58 am (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

Ethos is a persuasive device that works with logic and emotion. Ethos is the character a writer projects: a writer with a positive ethos convinces readers that she is authoritative and believable....

Latest answer posted February 18, 2021, 12:21 pm (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

Irony occurs when words mean the opposite of what they state, when situations are the opposite of what is expected, and when readers know what characters in a work of literature do not. Verbal...

Latest answer posted February 18, 2021, 1:00 pm (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

In her essay “How It Feels to be Colored Me,” Zora Neale Hurston defines herself as a unique individual who can’t be readily reduced to any one group or demographic. Moving into specifics, look at...

Latest answer posted February 18, 2021, 5:09 pm (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

The first paragraph of Zora Neale Hurston's "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" consists of a single sentence: I am colored but I offer nothing in the way of extenuating circumstances except the fact...

Latest answer posted February 18, 2021, 11:34 am (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

In the final paragraph of "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," Zora Neale Hurston explains why she calls herself a "brown bag of miscellany." She says that all the people in the world are like bags of...

Latest answer posted February 18, 2021, 11:51 am (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

Zora Neale Hurston incorporates plenty of figurative language in her essay “How It Feels to Be Colored Me.” She begins with hyperbole when she declares (with tongue firmly in cheek) that she is the...

Latest answer posted February 18, 2021, 4:32 pm (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

In this essay, Hurston uses herself as an example to demonstrate that a vibrant, can-do, optimistic attitude on life and a willingness to fight to get ahead can bring success and fulfillment, even...

Latest answer posted February 17, 2021, 12:50 pm (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

Zora Neale Hurston describes her childhood in the small, all-Black, backwater town of Eatonville, Florida. Both Southern and Northern whites come through the town from time to time. The Southerners...

Latest answer posted February 17, 2021, 2:28 pm (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

Tone is the emotional attitude a piece of writing conveys. In her essay "How it Feels to Be Colored Me," Zora Neale Hurston communicates a tone of relentlessly vibrant optimism about the...

Latest answer posted February 17, 2021, 1:32 pm (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

Hurston conveys positive feelings about being "colored" in her essay. She learns at age thirteen, when she goes to school in Jacksonville, that her individual identity as Zora is erased under the...

Latest answer posted February 17, 2021, 2:03 pm (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

Until she was thirteen, Hurston lived in the town of Eatonville, Florida. She describes it as "exclusively a colored town." Southern white people would pass through it on their horses on their way...

Latest answer posted February 17, 2021, 2:16 pm (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

A metaphor compares two seemingly unlike things to make a point. An extended metaphor is one that examines an initial metaphor in greater depth. A simile is a form of metaphor that uses the words...

Latest answer posted February 17, 2021, 4:10 pm (UTC)

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How It Feels to Be Colored Me

Zora Neale Hurston wrote her essay “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” in 1928. In the piece, she speaks of her early life in Eatonville, Florida, her hometown. Since Hurston was born in 1891, the...

Latest answer posted February 17, 2021, 2:50 pm (UTC)

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Summary