Magazine December 22, 2019, Issue

Zora Neale Hurston’s Individualism

Zora Neale Hurston at the New York Times book fair, November 1937 (PhotoQuest/Getty Images)
She wrote a novel for the ages but shunned ‘Race Pride’

Eatonville, Fla.

Zora Neale Hurston didn’t want to be a black writer, at least not in the way that others insisted on it: “From what I had read and heard, Negroes were supposed to write about the Race Problem. I was and am thoroughly sick of the subject,” she wrote in her 1942 memoir, Dust Tracks on a Road. “My interest lies in what makes a man or a woman do such-and-such regardless of his color.”

If she sounds sort of like a conservative, that’s because she was one. The author of what is arguably the most celebrated novel by an African-American

This article appears as “Zora the Explorer” in the December 22, 2019, print edition of National Review.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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