Zora Neale Hurston's "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" is a widely anthologized descriptive essay in which she examines the discovery of her identity and self-pride. Hurston uses vivid terminology, imagery, and metaphorical language to take the reader on this voyage, according to description rules. She begins by telling how it feels to be colored:
There are very few words that can describe the feeling to a person who has never been discriminated against because of his color. The one that comes to my mind is pride. I know it is that quality that causes the black man to lift his head high even though he may have to walk through fire or crawl over broken glass under a burning sun for there is nothing base about being proud.
She continues by discussing her feelings of isolation as a black woman in the South during the 1920s when she came into her own as an author. She tells how it felt to be colored by saying that it was like being wrapped in a colorful blanket that covered everything that was bad about being black and exposed what was good about being black. She says that it made her feel secure and safe.
Finally, she ends by saying that being colored is an amazing experience that no white person should ever deny themselves.
I think that this essay shows that people need to stop comparing themselves to others and start looking at themselves as individuals.
Expert Responses Zora Neale Hurston's "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" provides a favorable peek into the author's individuality. The first statement establishes her individualism: 'I am colored, but I give nothing in the way of excusing circumstances.' She is aware of who she is. The next two sentences explain how it feels to be colored.
Zora Neale Hurston was born on February 20th, 1891 in South Carolina. Her mother died when she was only nine years old and she was sent to live with her father who had moved to Florida. There, she grew up among other blacks after being separated from her father. She started writing at a very young age and published her first book at the age of 21. That book was titled Tell My Horse: Being A Diary Of Things As They Come To Mind. It dealt with black life during that time period and included short stories as well as poems.
In 1934, Hurston went back to school to get her master's degree in literature. Three years later, she became a professor of English at Columbia University. In addition to writing, she also worked as a director of research for the Federal Writers' Project during the 1930s. Hurston died in 1960 at the age of 70.
"How It Feels To Be Colored Me" (1928) is an essay by Zora Neale Hurston published in World Tomorrow as a "white publication sympathetic to Harlem Renaissance writers," reflecting her experiences as an African-American woman in America in the early twentieth century. The essay was first collected in Hurston's book Dust Tracks on a Road.
It is a memoir of her life up until age 28 when she wrote this essay. The story begins with a description of how it feels to be colored, or black, in America in 1928 and ends with a prediction about what it will be like to be colored in another world tomorrow. In between, there are anecdotes about her family, friends, and teachers as well as observations about racial issues in New York City during that time period.
Zora Neale Hurston was born on February 20th, 1891 in Janesville, Florida. Her mother died when she was only nine years old and she was raised by her father who owned a grocery store. He tried his best to give her a good education but because there were no schools for blacks at that time, he sent her to live with other family members so she could attend white schools. This is where most of her stories and essays are based since she had little opportunity to experience life outside of New York City.
In addition to being colored, or black, she was also a Native American (Cherokee).
Hurston's motivation for writing "How It Feels to Be Colored Like Me" is to express her satisfaction in being black. She rejects the notion, advanced by many of her black acquaintances during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, that segregation and racial discrimination hurt the black soul and needed to be addressed. Instead, she believes that blacks have no less a soul than whites and that racism destroys both souls. Thus, Hurston wants to show that blacks can survive such destruction.
She begins by describing how it feels to be colored: "The color line used to be quite plain down here in South Carolina. It was drawn across the face of the earth by the white man as he decided what part of the world would be his and what part wouldn't. The color line divided the human race into two classes - those who were allowed to live on this earth with its sun and moon and stars and trees and flowers and animals - and those who weren't." This introduction sets the stage for Hurston to explain that blacks are not only equal but also superior to whites. She goes on to say that although slavery destroyed much of the black soul, racism has even more power over the white soul. Because of this, she believes that blacks and whites can never truly understand or respect each other.
However, Hurston does acknowledge that there are some blacks who do suffer from racism. She says that they tend to turn their pain into anger and use it as a weapon against others.
Zora Neale Hurston employs figurative language in "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," including exaggeration, metaphor, dialect, allusion, rich sensory descriptions, and simile. Hurston uses these devices to express the inner feelings of a black woman living in the South during the 1920's.
Figurative language can be seen when Hurston compares being colored to being married. She says that they are two ways for a person to be "bound up by other people." By comparing being colored to being married, she is saying that being colored is not easy because it is similar to being married. Married couples have problems like blacks do too. They can never really be themselves around their husbands or wives- even though they love them - because there are rules about what color people should be married. Being colored means that you cannot go around openly wearing clothes that match, have hair that matches, or use any kind of makeup.