Zora Neale Hurston Was Ahead Of Her Time Writing About Black Joy

zora neale hurston smiling
L. Graciella Maiolatesi
May 8, 2023

The Roaring Twenties were loud with Black voices demanding to be heard. Throughout the Harlem Renaissance we took ownership of our narratives, the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

Anti-Black terrorism and riots like the Tulsa Race Massacre darkened many doorsteps. But she was determined to spread light.

From an early age Zora Neale Hurston was curious about the world, her imagination running wild with questions and love of folklore. 

As an adult she documented authentic Black stories, sick of anti-Blackness twisting our narratives.

Many of us were forever changed by Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Published posthumously, her work “Barracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo” unearthed the lost narrative of Cudjo Lewis, survivor of the Clotilda slave ship and founder of the freedman community, Africatown. 

But there’s another Hurston story history kept from us.

As a young adult Hurston published a short story about a Black girl who possessed an abundant joy for life. 

A young Black woman getting published in the 1920s was already a feat, but publishing about Black joy? Unheard of.

Hurston was ahead of her time, pinpointing that joy must be at the root of our protest. Our people have always found joy amidst the pain.   

Joy is the beginning of how we get free.

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