Zora Neale Hurston: "America's favorite black conservative"


In the latest issue of City Journal, John McWhorter offers a very interesting profile of the great Harlem Renaissance novelist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, who he calls "a fervent Republican who would be at home today on Fox News." I'm not so sure about the Fox News part, but there's no question that Hurston's views leaned in a conservative/libertarian direction. As she wrote in a 1951 article in the Saturday Evening Post (which McWhorter doesn't mention):

Throughout the New Deal era the relief program was the biggest weapon ever placed in the hands of those who sought power and votes. If the average American had been asked flatly to abandon his rights as a citizen and to submit to a personal rule, he would have chewed tobacco and spit white lime. But under relief, dependent upon the Government for their daily bread, men gradually relaxed their watchfulness and submitted to the will of the "Little White Father," more or less. Once they had weakened that far, it was easy to go on an on voting for more relief, and leaving Government affairs in the hands of a few. The change from a republic to a dictatorship was imperceptibly pushed ahead.

As McWhorter gently puts it, "Hurston's modern fan base doesn't know quite what to do with all this." For example, the novelist Alice Walker, whose 1975 Ms. magazine article, "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston," essentially resurrected Hurston's work, once declared, "I think we are better off if we think of Zora Neale Hurston as an artist, period—rather than as the artist/politician most black writers have been required to be." Yet as McWhorter wisely suggests in response, had Hurston's politics leaned to the left rather than the right, "one suspects that Walker would have had no trouble celebrating her as an 'artist/politician.'"

Read the rest here.