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Zora Neale Hurston: And A History Of Southern Life

Tiffany Ruby Patterson

Publication Year: 2005

A historian hoping to reconstruct the social world of all-black towns or the segregated black sections of other towns in the South finds only scant traces of their existence. In Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life, Tiffany Ruby Patterson uses the ethnographic and literary work of Zora Neale Hurston to augment the few official documents, newspaper accounts, and family records that pertain to these places hidden from history. Hurston's ethnographies, plays, and fiction focused on the day-to-day life in all-black social spaces as well as "the Negro farthest down" in labor camps. Patterson shows how Hurston's work complements the fragmented historical record, using the folklore and stories to provide a full description of these people of these towns as active human subjects, shaped by history and shaping their private world. Beyond the view and domination of whites in these spaces, black people created their own codes of social behavior, honor, and justice. In Patterson's view Hurston renders her subjects faithfully and with respect for their individuality and endurance, enabling all people to envision an otherwise inaccessible world.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

"The debts that I have accumulated in producing this book can never be repaid with a few words on a few pages. Now that it is done, the dozens of people who have assisted me, who have supported me through years of doubt and anguish, come into focus. I can thank only a few of them here, but they are all forever in my heart."

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pp. 1-4

On a hot August day in the 1920s, an unlikely couple motored through New England, stopping at an exclusive inn in Westchester County, New York. They were Fannie Hurst and Zora Neale Hurston, both writers, both female. One was an African American from the South whose rural southern heritage was imprinted in her color, language, and dress."

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Introduction: Rootedness—The History of Private Life

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pp. 5-18

"Zora Neale Hurston is a much-misunderstood historical figure. She faithfully chronicled black life—most notably the lives of working- and lower-class black women and men, especially in the rural South, but her very role as chronicler has been used to denounce her as a traitor to her race. Although her works stand among the richest documentary sources on black..."

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Reconstructing Past Presents

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pp. 19-31

"For Zora Neale Hurston the presence of the past manifests itself even in the most ordinary things and the most ordinary lives. Layers of experience reside under their deceptively mute surfaces. For Hurston, everyday actions and interactions, while seemingly inconsequential, are actually set in motion by the complex interplay..."

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Portraits of the South: Zora Neale Hurston’s Politics of Place

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pp. 32-49

Fiction, as Eudora Welty reminds us in her celebrated work Place in Fiction, requires the creation of a sense of place that renders a drama real enough to gain the reader’s complicity.1 Welty’s observation could be applied to the works of Zora Neale Hurston and her critics, both contemporary and present-day, were it not for one major complication..."

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A Place between Home and Horror

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pp. 50-89

"In the opening pages of her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, Zora Neale Hurston writes, 'I was born in a Negro town. I do not mean by that the black back-side of an average town. Eatonville, Florida, is, and was at the time of my birth, a pure Negro town—charter, mayor, council, town marshal and all."

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Sex and Color in Eatonville, Florida

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pp. 90-127

"In the works of Zora Neale Hurston, as in those of Willa Cather, history lies not in official proclamations or authorized texts but 'in lost hidden places that wait to be found.' 'Barely accessible' to our own understandings, 'frailly held together' by the shell of their own cultural logic, these places are sustained by the persistent memories of their inhabitants. Our task as careful..."

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A Transient World of Labor

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pp. 128-159

"When Zora Neale Hurston arrived in Polk County, Florida, in 1928 to collect folklore in the turpentine and sawmill camps, the population was more than 90 percent black and composed of transient labor from all over the South. The phosphate mining camps were also heavily black. Records of the Everglades Cypress Company, which managed the turpentine and sawmill camps, are not available. "

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Patronage: Anatomy of a Predicament

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pp. 159-182

"W.E.B. Dubois posed the classic question about the Harlem Renaissance, why it did not last. He also gave the classic answer, that the black American literary artist could not be supported by the black American public of the time. The audience for the art and its producers were both different from and socially distant from each other."

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pp. 183-184

"The testimonies recorded in Zora Neale Hurston's writing take us beyond traditional sources and help us understand a particular place and time. Traditional sources allow us to know the external world that I have described in Chapter 3; Hurston’s work, both fiction and nonfiction, takes us beyond that world to the inner lives of the human beings that inhabited it."


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pp. 185-216


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pp. 217-230

E-ISBN-13: 9781592137763

Publication Year: 2005