How it Feels to be Colored Me


Zora Neale Hurston

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Themes and Colors
Race and Difference Theme Icon
Performance Theme Icon
History and Opportunity Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in How it Feels to be Colored Me, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Race and Difference

In her 1928 essay “How It Feels To Be Colored Me,” African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston argues that race isn’t an essential feature that a person is born with, but instead emerges in specific social contexts. Hurston introduces this theme by describing her childhood in the majority black town of Eatonville, Florida, where, until the age of thirteen, she was not yet “colored.” It was only when she moved to the more diverse Jacksonville and…

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From the beginning of her essay, Zora Neale Hurston’s ideas about race are bound up in creative performance. Her earliest experiences with white people are of singing and dancing for a white audience. Just as she reconfigures ideas of race to her advantage, she uses the otherwise unwelcome scrutiny of white people as an opportunity for creative development. In this way, Hurston’s essay is as much a story of her journey as an artist…

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History and Opportunity

When Zora Neale Hurston wrote this essay in the 1920s, the United States was only 60 years removed from the Civil War, making the end of slavery well within living memory. As such, any account of the African-American experience would have to reckon with that legacy. Hurston does this in a uniquely idiosyncratic way. While acknowledging the persistence of racial discrimination, she minimizes the impact of slavery on the current circumstances of African-Americans. Instead, she…

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