The Dispute between Zora Hurston and Langston Hughes
"Their Eyes Were Watching God," and embracing its author, Zora Neale Hurston, Suddenly Hurston, the most prolific black woman writer of her day, . Hughes' friendship with Hurston turned bitter after she threatened a libel . What it takes to mend relationships between the police and communities. Hurston. In Hughes's hands, Hurston's yarn about two hunters who quarrel . In Mule Bone Hurston and Hughes attempt regarding the relation of literature and subsequent works, such as Mule Bone and Their Eyes Were Watching God'. Their Eyes Were Watching God (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) Langston Hughes, Toomer's contemporary, echoed Du Bois' "Many critics have complained of a scarcity of fulfilling heterosexual relationships in novels.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it. I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset. Except for McKay, they worked together also to create the short-lived magazine Fire!! Devoted to Younger Negro Artists.
Hughes and his contemporaries had different goals and aspirations than the black middle class. Hughes and his fellows tried to depict the "low-life" in their art, that is, the real lives of blacks in the lower social-economic strata. They criticized the divisions and prejudices within the black community based on skin color. The younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame.
If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. The tom-tom cries, and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain free within ourselves. Permeating his work is pride in the African-American identity and its diverse culture.
He confronted racial stereotypes, protested social conditions, and expanded African America's image of itself; a "people's poet" who sought to reeducate both audience and artist by lifting the theory of the black aesthetic into reality. The stars are beautiful, So the eyes of my people Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people. His thought united people of African descent and Africa across the globe to encourage pride in their diverse black folk culture and black aesthetic. Hughes was one of the few prominent black writers to champion racial consciousness as a source of inspiration for black artists. A radical black self-examination was emphasized in the face of European colonialism. At a time before widespread arts grants, Hughes gained the support of private patrons and he was supported for two years prior to publishing this novel.
It was judged to be a "long, artificial propaganda vehicle too complicated and too cumbersome to be performed. Chambers and Lieber worked in the underground together around — He finished the book at a Carmel, California cottage provided for a year by Noel Sullivan, another patron. Overall, they are marked by a general pessimism about race relations, as well as a sardonic realism.
InHughes received a Guggenheim Fellowship. The same year that Hughes established his theatre troupe in Los Angeles, he realized an ambition related to films by co-writing the screenplay for Way Down South. In Chicago, Hughes founded The Skyloft Players inwhich sought to nurture black playwrights and offer theatre "from the black perspective. The column ran for twenty years. InHughes began publishing stories about a character he called Jesse B. Semple, often referred to and spelled "Simple", the everyday black man in Harlem who offered musings on topical issues of the day.
Inhe spent three months at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools as a visiting lecturer. He wrote novels, short stories, plays, poetry, operas, essays, and works for children. With the encouragement of his best friend and writer, Arna Bontempsand patron and friend, Carl Van Vechtenhe wrote two volumes of autobiography, The Big Sea and I Wonder as I Wander, as well as translating several works of literature into English.
Photo by Gordon Parks From the mids to the mids, Hughes' popularity among the younger generation of black writers varied even as his reputation increased worldwide. With the gradual advance toward racial integrationmany black writers considered his writings of black pride and its corresponding subject matter out of date. They considered him a racial chauvinist. Hughes's work Panther and the Lash, posthumously published inwas intended to show solidarity with these writers, but with more skill and devoid of the most virulent anger and racial chauvinism some showed toward whites.
He often helped writers by offering advice and introducing them to other influential persons in the literature and publishing communities. This latter group, including Alice Walkerwhom Hughes discovered, looked upon Hughes as a hero and an example to be emulated within their own work.
One of these young black writers Loften Mitchell observed of Hughes: Langston set a tone, a standard of brotherhood and friendship and cooperation, for all of us to follow.
You never got from him, 'I am the Negro writer,' but only 'I am a Negro writer.
Many of his lesser-known political writings have been collected in two volumes published by the University of Missouri Press and reflect his attraction to Communism.
An example is the poem "A New Song". The film was never made, but Hughes was given the opportunity to travel extensively through the Soviet Union and to the Soviet-controlled regions in Central Asia, the latter parts usually closed to Westerners. In TurkmenistanHughes met and befriended the Hungarian author Arthur Koestlerthen a Communist who was given permission to travel there.
As later noted in Koestler's autobiography, Hughes, together with some forty other Black Americans, had originally been invited to the Soviet Union to produce a Soviet film on "Negro Life",  but the Soviets dropped the film idea because of their success in getting the US to recognize the Soviet Union and establish an embassy in Moscow.
This entailed a toning down of Soviet propaganda on racial segregation in America. Hughes and his fellow Blacks were not informed of the reasons for the cancelling, but he and Koestler worked it out for themselves. Hughes's poetry was frequently published in the CPUSA newspaper and he was involved in initiatives supported by Communist organizations, such as the drive to free the Scottsboro Boys. Partly as a show of support for the Republican faction during the Spanish Civil Warin Hughes traveled to Spain  as a correspondent for the Baltimore Afro-American and other various African-American newspapers.
He was more of a sympathizer than an active participant. He signed a statement supporting Joseph Stalin 's purges and joined the American Peace Mobilization in working to keep the U. Jim Crow laws and racial segregation and disfranchisement throughout the South.
Zora Hurston's youth as the intelligent daughter of respected Eatonville citizens was conducive to her self-esteem and her feeling of safety, free from the sense of second-class citizenship common in southern black life. Her circumstances also led to an inborn appreciation for the richness of southern black culture. Eatonville was a melting pot of black Americans from all over the South. The people there were a bottomless source of stories. The young Zora's eyes and ears were open to the rich life of the community around her.
With this porch Hurston created a powerful image, an icon, throughout her work.
It appears in her novels, her drama, and her folklore as well as her autobiography. This safe and comfortable childhood ended abruptly with the death of her mother. Hurston wrote the moving deathbed scene in her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Roadand her autobiographical novel Jonah's Gourd Vine Hurston's father remarried in haste, but his new wife did not want his children and the siblings dispersed to relatives and boarding schools.
The young Hurston made her own way as a black woman in the world of the American South, working as a maid or nanny when she could. These times were the ten lost years that she never mentioned, that she erased from her story.
No doubt these were the years when she learned the traits of survival and self-sufficiency. She emerged as a ladies' maid and helper with a touring Gilbert and Sullivan troupe. Hurston was able to return to school in Baltimore inattending Morgan Academy and graduating in An eager student, she went on to Howard University in Washington, D.
Hurston blossomed at Howard and published her first short story in the college literary magazine, Stylus, in In Hurston published her short story Drenched in Light in Opportunity magazine.
Drenched in Light is thinly disguised autobiography, a story about a joyful child in Eatonville. The story is a statement of affirmation, written by a woman who has pondered her identity and origins. The vibrant, confident young woman with the unusual background and stories was noticed. Fannie Hurst, a popular writer, gave her a job as secretary and companion. Hurston continued to write and publish short stories and plays, with Eatonville as her subject.
Critic and biographer Robert E. Hemenway characterizes some of the work of this period as hackneyed, all theme with little plot. Yet the Eatonville material was compelling, matchless in its place in history and culture, and Hurston had an eye and ear for her subject along with a conviction of the importance of her message. She had not, however, yet found her genre or her voice. She was still struggling with her craft and her perspective.
The Harlem Renaissance was a period of a fertile flowering of black art, music, and voice in the s and s. In she organized the short-lived radical journal Fire!!
Hurston found herself in the role of proletarian in New York City as she found the Harlem Renaissance largely a movement of northern-raised, middle-class black artists who were a generation removed from the source of their material.
These were black artists who had absorbed a mainstream conception of high art; who took material with black origins and formalized it—for example turning the spirituals of the southern Baptist churches into composed and arranged songs to be performed for white audiences in concert halls.
Hurston, however, was the genuine article, the folk, and her mission was to present and preserve the folk voice as she knew it from her youth in the South.
Further, Hurston had a sense that the folk material that she loved was not a lower form of art but an oral tradition that had enabled the black people to survive with dignity and strength. Her goal was to glorify and preserve a form of black expression that she felt was being diluted by urbanization.
She found that anthropology offered a scientific framework for her folklore. She had not found a voice for the Eatonville material in the short story genre; anthropology gave her the form she was searching for.
Anthropology gave her the opportunity to look at her community culture and folktales with the objectivity of a social scientist; the step back from her personal experience helped to reconcile her to her past. Soon Hurston was doing fieldwork for Boas in Harlem. Then, in February she was given a grant to collect folklore in Florida. Previously, some black folklore had been collected by white researchers, but their findings were often influenced by stereotypes and misconceptions of the black personality and experience.
This first folklore-collecting trip was not very successful. She wrote later that people were suspicious of her Barnard manner and told her only what they wanted her to hear. She returned to Boas and admitted her disappointing results.
Wise Boas was not surprised. Perhaps the cocky, confident Zora needed to learn from a failure. Patronage In the fall of Hurston met Mrs.
Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes: A Woman Scorned | Norwood Holland's Editorial Independence
Rufus Osgood Mason, a wealthy white woman who was to play a major role in her life. Mason was patron to several black artists, including Langston Hughes.
Mason that enabled her to go back to the South on another collecting trip. Hurston had learned from her first expedition. She would need the patience and imagination to live as a part of the community, not as an outsider, a northern-educated scientist. In Polk County, Florida, she created the fiction that she was a bootlegger's girlfriend running from the law.
She was welcomed into the lumber and railroad work camps, where she kept her ears open and took notes. She went on to New Orleans to collect voodoo practices and rituals, becoming an initiate under several practitioners. That year spent collecting in the South under Mrs. Mason's patronage was pivotal for Hurston.
The financial support was liberating.
Langston Hughes - Wikipedia
Her collecting was so fertile that she drew on the material from this trip for the rest of her life. She began to see the stories and customs of her childhood and her culture as part of a pattern of black experience and survival and to fit her own life as a survivor into the pattern.
On the surface she was a scientist working on a folklore-collecting expedition, but underneath she was becoming a novelist who could connect the collective stories with individual experience in an expression of art. Hurston spent much of living on Mrs.
Mason's money and organizing her field notes. Living in South Florida, Hurston met West Africans and became interested in their customs, folklore, and dancing.
She began to make links between African-American and African-Caribbean folklore. She spent some time in Nassau in the Bahamas in andliving again within the community, learning and collecting songs, dances, and customs.
Hurston was beginning to chafe at the restrictions of her contract with Mrs. She had the Florida and New Orleans material organized and ready for publication. She wanted to work on some new, independent projects, while Mrs. Mason contended that the contract was not fulfilled until the folklore material was published. Mason held the title to the material and Hurston was prohibited by the contract from publishing anything without Mrs. Mason's approval, so if Hurston wanted to see her book in print, she had to submit to Mrs.
Hurston spent nearly two years organizing her vast notes and material. She published Hoodoo in America in the Journal of American Folklore in and looked for a book publisher for a scholarly presentation of her findings. Hurston and Hughes began to collaborate on a play, Mule Bone, a series of skits and songs based largely on the folklore that Hurston had collected in Eatonville. The first act takes place on the porch of Joe Clarke's store.
Hurston envisioned a form of theater that would present authentic material in an aural context, in an exuberant and accessible manner. The Mule Bone project and her relationship with Langston Hughes fell apart in a bitter misunderstanding that was worsened by tensions relating to Mrs.
Hughes left the Mason payroll, feeling increasingly guilty about enjoying caviar in her home while writing about the blues of his people. Mason's patronage for a while longer, until she found a publisher for her collection.
Hurston, Zora Neale
Hughes and Hurston became estranged; then Hughes discovered that the play was in negotiation with a theater company, to be produced with Hurston as sole author. It turned out that their mutual friend Carl Van Vechten had sent a draft of the play to the theater without Hurston's knowledge, but the damage was done and the play was never produced.
The Great Day Hurston's relationship with Mrs. Mason was finally severed in March while Hurston was still searching for a publisher for her folklore collection.
She found herself with a need to earn a living. She also found herself with a growing conviction that her stories and songs could be better presented in some living form than in a scientific journal.
She envisioned a revue that would be artistically true to the folk tradition, including comedy, songs, and dances. Hurston wrote and staged the theatrical revue The Great Dayusing her collected folk material and including authentic Jamaican dancers and drummers.
She was to use the same material for several years, repeating the New York City performance. Hurston also created a new version at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, and took that show on the road. She still had no publisher for her folklore collection and so earned her living by this theatrical expression of her material and experience.
Hurston tried her hand at various academic jobs in the South, working on her conception of authentic theater in college drama departments. Hurston the scholar, with her Barnard credentials, and Hurston the exuberant voice of Eatonville, with her theatrical successes, sought to present an authentic and traditional form of expression. Her goal was to bring legitimate folklore to theater and concert audiences.
Segregated Florida in the Great Depression was not a fertile ground for black theater production, nor was Hurston's vocation in academe. She was later awarded a fellowship to work on a Ph. Jonah's Gourd Vine Hurston turned to fiction in hopes of producing income and finding a medium for her Eatonville voice. This is a mature story, set in Eatonville, and was the catalyst in attracting the publisher that she needed.
The Philadelphia publisher J. Lippincott noticed the story and asked her for a novel. She rented a cabin in Eatonville and sat down and wrote Jonah's Gourd Vine This, Hurston's first novel, is a blend of autobiography, folklore, and fiction.
The book succeeds because the voice of Eatonville pours from her pen. The story is authentic, based on the life of her father, the Baptist preacher born into slavery.
John Pearson rises with determination, the help of his strong wife Lucie, and his gift for poetry. But John has a fatal flaw; he is a philanderer. After his wife dies, in a deathbed scene based on the death of Hurston's mother, John—filled with guilt but bewitched by his lover with the help of a hoodoo man—remarries in haste and eventually is cast out by his congregation.
John's farewell sermon, a triumph of language and poetry, is quoted directly from a sermon Hurston collected while in Florida. If sometimes the transitions are flawed, if the reader is brought too abruptly from the folklore material to the fictional plot, Hurston nevertheless has the gift of knowing where to leave autobiography behind and move into the realm of fiction.
From the suggestion of hoodoo in John's hasty remarriage to his failed redemption, Hurston departs from life and finishes the fictional tale.
Jonah's Gourd Vine was written in a fresh and knowledgeable voice, with an ear for dialect and using material and a setting that Hurston was uniquely placed to present. Language is at the heart of the novel, as it was at the heart of all of Hurston's subsequent writing. Her authentic and original use of the black idiom, a language rich with proverbs, wordplay, imagery, and metaphor, is a solid achievement.
John Pearson is aware of the power of language; his gift for language raises him from laborer to leader. Most important, language, especially black language, is honored in Jonah's Gourd Vine. John's poetry rises from a culture that values skill and improvisation in oral art, from the store porch and from the pulpit. Lippincott wanted the anthropology material popularized for the average reader. Hurston devised a form, a story within a story, in which she puts the folklore into context, creating a first-person role for herself as narrator and collector as well as the third-person role of social scientist and observer.
Hurston found a voice when she put herself as a character in her report. She created herself, the semifictitious narrator. Her introduction to Mules and Men is a statement of her method and identity, uniting her own past in Eatonville with the curious researcher.
Hurston was criticized by the scholarly community for putting too much of her own personality into a scientific report. Hurston was sometimes accused of being less than scrupulous in her writing and collecting. She was as much an interpreter of the folklore she collected as an objective scientist.