More Zora

by John J. Miller

Addendum to Zora: Roger Clegg wrote on her for NRO a while back:

I will not argue that Hurston was a conservative — as Boyd says, “we don’t know” how she would have taken to Clarence Thomas — but there was much about her that conservatives should find endearing. She was anti-Communist (in 1951, she wrote an article for American Legion Magazine titled “Why the Negro Won’t Buy Communism”), patriotic (“My country, right or wrong,” she wrote in 1928), “a registered Republican” (not so unusual for African Americans not so very long ago) — who supported Robert Taft in his 1952 presidential bid and, in other elections, opposed Adam Clayton Powell Jr., and Claude Pepper — and a proud Southerner.

But what is most refreshing is not so much her overt politics as her attitude toward race, and race relations — and the very fact that she was obsessed with neither. She was criticized by black activist authors like Richard Wright because she did not believe that African-American artists had a duty to advance some political agenda. W. E. B. DuBois had declared in 1926, “I do not care a damn for any art that is not used for propaganda.” So Hurston knew that “Negroes were supposed to write about the Race Problem,” but maintained nonetheless, “I was and am thoroughly sick of the subject. My interest lies in what makes a man or woman do such-and-so, regardless of his color.”