You don't know us negroes and other essays

Zora Neale Hurston

Book - 2022

"One of the most acclaimed artists of the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston was a gifted novelist, playwright, and essayist. Drawn from three decades of her work, this anthology showcases her development as a writer, from her early pieces expounding on the beauty and precision of African American art to some of her final published works, covering the sensational trial of Ruby McCollum, a wealthy Black woman convicted in 1952 for killing a white doctor. Among the selections are Hurston's well-known works such as "How It Feels to be Colored Me" and "My Most Humiliating Jim Crow Experience." The essays in this essential collection are grouped thematically and cover a panoply of topics, including politics, rac...e and gender, and folkloric study from the height of the Harlem Renaissance to the early years of the Civil Rights movement. Demonstrating the breadth of this revered and influential writer's work, You Don't Know Us Negroes and Other Essays is an invaluable chronicle of a writer's development and a window into her world and time"--

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New York, NY : Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers [2022]
Main Author
Zora Neale Hurston (author)
Other Authors
Margaret Genevieve West (editor), Henry Louis Gates
First edition
Physical Description
x, 451 pages ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages [412]-440) and index.
  • Editors' Note
  • Introduction
  • Part 1. On the Folk
  • Bits of Our Harlem
  • High John de Conquer
  • The Last Slave Ship
  • Characteristics of Negro Expression
  • Conversions and Visions
  • Shouting
  • Spirituals and Neo-Spirituals
  • Ritualistic Expression from the Lips of the Communicants of the Seventh Day Church of God
  • Part 2. On Art and Such
  • You Don't Know Us Negroes
  • Fannie Hurst
  • Art and Such
  • Stories of Conflict
  • The Chick with One Hen
  • Jazz Regarded as Social Achievement
  • Review of Voodoo in New Orleans by Robert Tallant
  • What White Publishers Won't Print
  • Part 3. On Race and Gender
  • The Hue and Cry About Howard University
  • The Emperor Effaces Himself
  • The Ten Commandments of Charm
  • Noses
  • How It Feels to Be Colored Me
  • Race Cannot Become Great Until It Recognizes Its Talent
  • Now Take Noses
  • Lawrence of the River
  • My Most Humiliating Jim Crow Experience
  • The Lost Keys of Glory
  • The South Was Had
  • Take for Instance Spessard Holland
  • Part 4. On Politics
  • The "Pet Negro" System
  • Negroes Without Self-Pity
  • The Rise of the Begging Joints
  • Crazy for This Democracy
  • I Saw Negro Votes Peddled
  • Mourner's Bench
  • A Negro Voter Sizes Up Taft
  • Court Order Can't Make Races Mix
  • Which Way the NAACP?
  • Part 5. On the Trial of Ruby McCollum
  • Zora's Revealing Story of Ruby's 1st Day in Court!
  • Victim of Fate!
  • Ruby Sane!
  • Ruby McCollum Fights for Life
  • Bare Plot Against Ruby
  • Trial Highlights
  • Justice and Fair Play Aim of Judge Adams as Ruby Goes on Trial
  • McCollum-Adams Trial Highlights
  • Ruby Bares Her Love Life
  • Ruby's Story: Doctor's Threats, Tussle over Gun Led to Slaying!
  • Ruby's Troubles Mount: Named in $100,000 Lawsuit!
  • The Life Story of Mrs. Ruby J. McCollum!
  • My Impressions of the Trial
  • Chronological List of Essays
  • Acknowledgments
  • Credits
  • Notes
  • Index
Review by Choice Review

In this long-awaited collection of Hurston's essays, editors Genevieve West (Texas Women's Univ.) and Henry Louis Gates Jr. (Harvard) do not shy away from the more controversial aspects of Hurston's career. These include her celebration of segregationist Senator Spessard Holland ("devoted to the best in literature," p. 229), her endorsement of Robert Taft's "sincerity and truthfulness" (p. 295) in the 1952 presidential election, and, cogently, her sense that Russia was not "the sworn champion" (p. 272) of dark-skinned peoples. These are counterbalanced by Hurston's advocacy of Ruby McCollum, a Black woman accused of murdering a white doctor who had abused her, whom Hurston saw as more a "victim" than a "cold, ruthless killer" (p. 383). Notable is Hurston's adamant self-defense against the caustic review by Harlem Renaissance intellectual Alain Locke of Hurston's pivotal novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). Hurston castigated Locke for patronizing her book on "folk lore." Another triumph is a humorous essay on noses, which are "necessary" and to which one should "be kind" (p. 185). West and Gates give readers a full sense of Hurston's rhetorical range and moral conviction. This book should be a staple of American literature courses. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. --Nicholas Birns, New York University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

In this newly compiled essay collection covering 35 years of life and writing, Hurston's eye turns to language, race, gender, art, and much more. Editors Gates and West have created a volume that enables readers both steeped in and new to Hurston to discover her acerbic wit, her crisp prose, and the breadth of her artistic ability and interests. From trial coverage to folktales, explorations of spirituals and debacles at Howard University, Hurston's inquiries provide an opportunity to experience the evolution of her work in context with her better-known writings. "Characteristics of Negro Expression" is a particularly fascinating look at Black life and language and highlight's Hurston's skill with the pen as well as her attention to detail and her deft ability to share her insights with those who might not otherwise notice significant nuances. Her anthropological background is on full display as she confronts Jim Crow, white supremacy, civil rights actions, and Black creativity. This is an invaluable nonfiction companion to the collection of Hurston's short stories, Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick (2020).HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Media coverage will catalyze requests for this landmark gathering of an essential American writer's incisive social, cultural, and artistic critiques.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

More than three decades of work by novelist Hurston (1891--1960) come together in this showstopping collection. In "Spirituals and Neo-Spirituals," she spotlights the power of spiritual songs, and notes that "in the mouth of the Negro, the English language loses its stiffness... 'the rim bones of nothing' is just as truthful as 'limitless space.' " Her pride in the richness of Black American life is evident throughout, especially in "Race Cannot Become Great Until It Recognizes Its Talent" and the title essay, in which she reminds readers that "Two hundred and forty-six years of outward submission during slavery... intensified our inner life instead of destroying it." In "Court Order Can't Make Races Mix" and "Which Way the NAACP?" she reveals her misgivings regarding the Brown v Board of Education decision and its implication that all-Black schools are inferior. Whether reporting on the injustices of the criminal justice system, poking holes in the pomposity of Marcus Garvey, or drawing a character sketch of a Black Florida cattle rancher, Hurston's work stands out for its wit and range. This will delight her fans, and should garner her some new ones. Agent: Joy Harris, The Joy Harris Literary Agency. (Jan.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A collection of Hurston's trenchant, acerbic commentaries on Black life. Edited, introduced, and extensively annotated by scholars Gates and West, 50 essays written over nearly four decades showcase the uncompromising views of novelist, anthropologist, folklorist, and critic Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960). Organized thematically into sections focusing on "the Folk," race, gender, art, politics, and the scandalous trial of a Black woman accused of killing her White lover, the essays cohere to present Hurston's "lifelong attempt to reclaim traditional Black folk culture from racist and classist degradations, to share with her readers the 'race pride' she felt, to build the race from within." In the title essay, among the handful previously unpublished, Hurston excoriates Whites for assuming that they understand anything about Black experience. "Most white people have seen our shows but not our lives," she wrote in 1958. "If they have not seen a Negro show they have seen a minstrel or at least a black-face comedian and that is considered enough." She hurled criticism at some Blacks, as well: After Harlem Renaissance leader Alain Locke panned her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, she damned him as a fraud. In "Which Way the NAACP?" written in 1957, Hurston questioned "the interpretation of 'advancement' " by the organization that pressed for school integration. "One has to be persuaded that a Negro suffers enormously by being deprived of physical contact with the Whites and be willing to pay a terrible price to gain it," she wrote. Co-founded by W.E.B. Du Bois, the NAACP, she predicted, "will remain a self-constituted dictatorship so long as it does not ask and receive a mandate from the entire Negro population of the United States." Writing during the Harlem Renaissance, Jim Crow, and civil rights unrest, Hurston argued for recognizing "the full richness of the African American experience" through its unique contributions to art, music, and language. Vigorous writings from a controversial and important cultural critic. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.