Zora Neale Hurston Preserved The Untamed Black Woman

The acclaimed writer was born on this day in 1891.

Relationships, romantic or otherwise, do not absolve you of the work that you must do to fulfill yourself. They can point you towards your own flame, but ultimately, you have to be invested in your own growth. Such is the life of the empowered woman.

This kind of spirited fille is the crux of Zora Neale Hurston’s most famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. At the book’s onset, the main character, Janie Crawford, is a middle-aged Black woman who has returned to her second hometown, Eatonville, Florida.

She is largely misunderstood and criticized by the townspeople for her multiple marriages. “Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in? Where all dat money her husband took and died and left her,” they scoff. “Where she left dat young lad of a boy she went off here wid? Thought she was going to marry? Where he left her?,” the women of Eatonville ask. Crawford is vilified for her silence, and for her refusal to share the contents of her heart with known gossipers whose dreams died on a porch.

Time has ticked, but not much has changed. In modern times, The Shade Room has shamelessly taken up the reins that those women laid down. What do we call Black women, who cycle through men without whim and pursue love of self on their own terms? Are they thots? Are they selfish? Why can’t we call them by their names and declare them blessed?

Like the townsfolk of Eatonville, people tend to gossip about Black women that they can’t figure out, or those who aren’t bound to one man for life. That was once perceived to be the ultimate goal of a woman, to be kept. We had little to no choice but to believe that this was pinnacle of emancipation on this Earth. But now that we know that freedom, in all of her warmth, is ours, what do we do? We bask, because of Zora.

Thank you.

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