35 Life-Changing Zora Neale Hurston Quotes

Celebrating one of America's greatest writers on her 128th birthday.

Zora Neale Hurston was born on January 7, 1891.

An acclaimed researcher, anthropologist, and writer, she was a paramount voice of her generation, and her words resonate powerfully today. The author of four novels, including Their Eyes Were Watching God, her work is associated closely with the Harlem Renaissance, and her research—focused on Haitian Voodoo and Southern African American folklore—was fundamental to shaping modern anthropological perspectives.

She was widely dismissed by the literary establishment of her time, but today she's recognized as one of the greatest writers in American history.

In celebration of this amazing woman, here are some of her many extraordinary quotes.

On Resilience

1. "I have been in Sorrow's kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and sword in my hands."

2. "Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can anyone deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me."

3. "I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife."

4. "I have the nerve to walk my own way, however hard, in my search for reality, rather than climb upon the rattling wagon of wishful illusions."

5. "I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all."

6. "Prayer seems to me a cry of weakness, and an attempt to avoid, by trickery, the rules of the game as laid down. I do not choose to admit weakness. I accept the challenge of responsibility."

On Rage

7. "If you are silent about your pain, they'll kill you and say you enjoyed it."

8. "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."

9. "I will fight for my country, but I will not lie for her."

10. "Colonialism and race is at the bottom of the whole thing. So long as we support England and France in their colonial policies in Asia, so long shall our young men die over there."

On Thoughtfulness

11. "Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. It is a seeking that he who wishes may know the cosmic secrets of the world and they that dwell therein."

12. "She didn't read books so she didn't know that she was the world and the heavens boiled down to a drop."

13. "Everybody has some special road of thought along which they travel when they are alone to themselves. And his road of thought is what makes every man what he is."

14. "There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought."

15. "Happiness is nothing but everyday living seen through a veil."

16. "I love myself when I am laughing. And then again when I am looking mean and impressive."

On Adventurousness

17. "Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to 'jump at de sun.' We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground."

18. "It is one of the blessings of this world that few people see visions and dream dreams."

19. "Trees and plants always look like the people they live with, somehow."

20. "...It grew upon me that I ought to walk out to the horizon and see what the end of the world was like."

On Communication

21. "It's no use of talking unless people understand what you say."

22. "Anytime you catch folks lying, they scared of something!"

23. "I have known the joy and pain of friendship. I have served and been served. I have made some good enemies for which I am not a bit sorry. I have loved unselfishly, and I have fondled hatred with the red-hot tongs of Hell. That's living."

On Perspective

24. "There is no single face in nature, because every eye that looks upon it, sees it from its own angle. So every man's spice-box seasons his own food."

25. "Grown people know that they do not always know the way of things, and even if they think they know, they do not know where and how they got the proof."

26. "My sense of humor will always stand in the way of my seeing myself, my family, my race or my nation as the whole intent of the universe."

On Divinity

27. "Mystery is the essence of divinity."

28. "It seems to me to be true that heavens are placed in the sky because it is the unreachable. The unreachable and therefore the unknowable always seems divine--hence, religion. People need religion because the great masses fear life and its consequences. Its responsibilities weigh heavy. Feeling a weakness in the face of great forces, men seek an alliance with omnipotence to bolster up their feeling of weakness, even though the omnipotence they rely upon is a creature of their own minds. It gives them a feeling of security."

29. "Why fear? The stuff of my being is matter, ever changing, ever moving, but never lost; so what need of denominations and creeds to deny myself the comfort of all my fellow men? The wide belt of the universe has no need for finger-rings. I am one with the infinite and need no other assurance."

30. "The present was an egg laid by the past that had the future inside its shell."

On Altruism

31. "There is nothing to make you like other human beings so much as doing things for them."

32. "No man may make another free."

On Love

33. "There is two things everybody got to find out for theirselves. They got to find out about love and they got to find out about living."

34. "Love is like the sea. It's a moving thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from the shore it meets, and it's different with every shore."

On Creativity

35. "If writers were too wise, perhaps no books would get written at all. It might be better to ask yourself 'Why?' afterward than before … There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you."

Music Lists

Slept On: New Underground Releases from Drakeo the Ruler, Dreezy & More

Protest music aside, there is a slew of good underground music out today

An invigorating slew of protest music hit the shelves today.

Detroit-based emcee Tee Grizzley collaborated with Queen Naija and the Detroit Youth Choir to craft a melodic ballad that attempts to open up a dialogue with police. Meanwhile, alt-Jazz pioneer Terrace Martin took a different approach in his collaboration with Denzel Curry, Daylyt, G Perico, and Kamasi Washington, with "Pigs Feet" being more of an angry f*ck you than an attempt at communication.

Keep Reading Show less

"I Can't Teach My Son ​How to Be Black": Jack Learns a Lesson on "This Is Us"

Jack Pearson, America's Favorite Dad, shows how a good man and a good father can be totally ignorant, and sort of a d*ck.

This Is Us isn't sugarcoating the tough questions in Season 4, whether that's regarding Cassidy Sharp's (Jennifer Morrison) PTSD, the reality of teenage parenthood, or Randall Pearson's (Sterling K. Brown) adolescent struggles as a black adoptee in a white family.

In the last episode, "The Dinner and the Date," two difficult dinner conversations about race and class, taking place in two different decades, overlap. The episode teased out this season's surprisingly complex themes about interracial families and socioeconomic clashes. Helming the show's unique turn is writer Kay Oyegun, who continues to elevate its creative and thematic sophistication by bringing fraught conversations to the attention of the show's 12 million viewers. Namely, how can a white family help their adopted child of color figure out his identity?

In a series of flashbacks, we witness the night Jack (Milo Ventimilgia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) Pearson invite young Randall's favorite teacher—and the only black instructor at his elite private school—Mr. Lawrence (Brandon Scott) and his wife, Trish (Skye P. Marshall), over to dinner. Simultaneously, in the present, we see Randall (Sterling K. Brown) inviting the parents of his adopted daughter's would-be boyfriend over for dinner to plan their children's breakup. Deja (Lyric Ross), the daughter of a drug addict who's experienced homelessness and abusive foster care, has served as a stark contrast to the privileged upbringing Randall had and the one he's giving his children with his wife, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson). Now her first love interest, Malik (Asante Blackk) is an earnest, kind, confident 14-year-old who understands Deja in a way no one in her upper middle class family has been able to—and he happens to have an infant daughter.

This Is Us 4x07 Promo "The Dinner And The Date" (HD)

So the two conflicted dinners mix the cringe comedy of socially awkward conversations with the serious gravity—and deep, deep flaws—of Jack's comment to Mr. Lawrence: "I can't teach my son how to be black."

Mr. Lawrence's response is perfect and well-acted: a mortified snort. "Oh don't...don't do that," he chuffs, before going to his car to retrieve a book of black conscious poetry that he intended to give to Randall. Instead he gives it to Jack, who takes the collection of Langston Hughes poetry to young Randall's room, and the two bond over Randall's favorite poem, which he's already memorized.

Whether or not you're like me and hate to admit you've ever shed a tear over anything short of battery acid straight to the eye, young Randall's recitation of "I, Too" is the kind of formulaic pathos and prime time pageantry that great tear-jerkers are made of. That is to say: Yes, I f*cking wept, you cretins, and if you didn't, then you are a Black Mirror robot dog.

In its totality, this is Hughe's "I, Too" poem, and what follows is why I, Jack, and most of America caught a bug in the eye or something when young Randall recited it.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

The driving force of tension at Mr. Lawrence's dinner at the Pearson's is Jack's palpable feeling of being threatened by him. During last week's episode, "The Club," Jack struggled to articulate why he was intimidated by Randall's affinity for Mr. Lawrence. Driven partly by over-protection and probably part shame, he said that Randall is getting older and asking more complex questions "about his place in this world" and that there are things he "can't show [his] son." He even made the faux pas of telling Randall, "I don't see color, I see my son," which he quickly realized was, however well-intentioned, very off the mark, as Randall replied, "Then you don't see me, dad."

So with Mr. Lawrence and his wife sitting at his table with his children, Jack continuously makes passive aggressive remarks challenging Mr. Lawrence's right to introduce Randall to new parts of culture, like the local black arts festival that Randall asks to attend with his teacher. Jack interrupts to say that the Pearsons can all go "as a family" and leave Mr. Lawrence to go "with his friends." The tension builds until Rebecca meets Jack in the kitchen to inform him of the absolute obvious: Randall is his son; Randall will always prefer him to any other male role model in his life; but if Jack makes Randall choose him and sacrifice having other important figures who could help him learn who he is, then Randall will suffer for it.

This is Us 4x07 Sneak Peek Clip 2 "The Dinner And The Date"

It's a clear cut, direct, and honest depiction of a good man and a good father (Jack is inarguably America's Favorite Dad)—being completely ignorant, and sort of a d*ck. Jack is threatened and worried that he is fundamentally lacking as a white father to a black son—not from any racial prejudice, but from insecurity in himself as a parent. He recognizes that race does matter to the world that will receive his children as adults—grievously so, in fact. He has a very human, self-protective instinct to deny and resist that reality, but he senses that doing so would be harmful to Randall in some vital way.

So really, his stumbled comment, "I can't teach Randall how to be black," is his best articulation of that anxiety and his acknowledgement of that terrible, sad fact. And he senses, in some itchy, nebulous way, that if Randall doesn't learn how to respond to the way the world will treat him, and if he doesn't learn the history of how people who looked liked him were treated, then Randall will be ill-equipped to face the world. Or, more accurately, Jack would be keeping him away from something that he needs in order to live a fully conscious life.

That's how we get to the scene in young Randall's bedroom, after he's just declared his favorite poem to be Langston Hughe's "I, Too" and recited it from memory in front of Jack, who promises that they're going to read the entire collection of poetry together.