|Photo from nndb.com|
With Mitt the Git taking the lead in Florida, it’s fitting that I write about Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston is best known for the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. She was a major influence during the Harlem Renaissance.
She was also a Republican.
At the time, most African Americans were Republicans. It was the Party of Abraham Lincoln, signer of the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery. However, when Franklin D Roosevelt promised a “New Deal” for America, African Americans flocked to the Democrat Party. Unfortunately, they were disappointed by his performance, particularly his refusal to sign anti-lynching legislation. Hurston wasn’t a one party voter. She supported the BEST candidate for office, encouraging participation of her contemporaries in the arts and theater. Hurston was quoted as saying: “It’s time for us to cease to allow ourselves to be delivered as a mob by persuasive ‘friends’ and become individual citizens.”
I think Hurston would be furious if she saw the sheep-like mentality of today’s voters. She would not like how today’s Democrats take for granted that African Americans will all vote straight Democrat. Of course, Republicans then were much different than today’s Republican Party. She understood that African Americans are individuals, not a target demographic that will ensure a candidate gets into office.
Hurston understood that while racism unfortunately exists, the real issue is the divide between the Haves and the Have Nots. She recognized that there were some people who worked hard for what they had and that others were “dealing from the bottom and cheating like hell in other ways.” A successful writer, she never received the financial equivalent for her work. When invited to speak for prominent politicians, she did not have enough money to make the trip and had to decline the offers. When she died, her neighbors took a collection to bury her. It was until Alice Walker searched for her grave that she received a proper burial marker.
Despite common ground with the Old Right in domestic and foreign policy, Hurston was not a social conservative. The conservatism that Hurston embraced had its roots in racial consciousness. She was aware that the country had a division based on race, but she felt that we were all Americans. When challenged on her politics, she would not back down on her party affiliation, but try to educate those who disagreed with her. She had an affinity for female individualism and a desire to be known as an individual, not take the whole of her race as her responsibility.
I used the following sources for information about the politics of Zora Neale Hurston:
Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston (Lisa Drew Books)
The Newly Complicated Zora Neale Hurston by By Glenda R. Carpio and Werner Sollors
Black Libertarian: The Story of Zora Neale Hurston by Marcus Epstein
Why Zora Neale Hurston Was a Conservative by John McWhorter