10 powerful quotes from Zora Neale Hurston that resonate with race issues today

their eyes were watching god

Zora Neale Hurston was born 125 years ago today, but her words still have an impact in modern society. Her sharp views on race, relationships and feminism stand as some of the most important work in American history.

To honor Hurston’s legacy, we highlight 10 of her powerful quotes that resonate today.

“I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background.”

It can be a difficult struggle to exist as a minority while in the midst of a majority white environment. Hurston reveals the harsh reality of realizing your differences and how it can impact your future.

“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”

Black culture is American culture. Whether its music, art, theater, or sports, Black culture is a dominate fixture in our nation. It’s almost ironic to think that a race of people that contributes so much can face hate without reason.

“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”

Black Lives Matter movement is just as important as the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. Black pain can only began its healing process when the world is allowed to see that pain.

“I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes.”

Blacks must always maintain a level of self-confidence to fight against the brutality and hate that is often assigned by others. It’s the only way to survive.

“Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less.”

Hurston sheds light on how racism can be dealt with by having a strong sense of self and purpose.

“There is something about poverty that smells like death. Dead dreams dropping off the heart, live leaves in a dry season and rotting around the feet.”

Poverty is one of the most overlooked diseases in America. It’s a national issue that most political figures want to ignore.

“For various reasons, the average, struggling, non-morbid Negro is the best-kept secret in America. His revelation to the public is the thing needed to do away with that feeling of difference which inspires fear, and which ever expresses itself in dislike.”

Blacks are often viewed as invisible until the voiceless chooses to speak out. The first step in destroying racism is for Whites to develop a level of empathy for Black lives.

“It would be against all nature for all the Negroes to be either at the bottom, top, or in between. We will go where the internal drive carries us like everybody else. It is up to the individual.”

The state of Black America can’t be assigned to one position of success or struggle.

“It is hard to apply oneself to study when there is no money to pay for food and lodging. I almost never explain these things when folks are asking me why I don’t do this or that.”

The education issues in America are often traced to poverty. How it can be difficult for impoverished students to remain at the top their class while operating on an empty stomach and inadequate living conditions.

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” 

This quote is a universal truth that reveals how time can helps us all see more clear.

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