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Everett CollectionZora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) congenital African American ability and folk agency into her plays, stories, novels. Ad Policy
One of the best able of the adolescent Negro poets said to me once, “I appetite to be a poet–not a Negro poet,” meaning, I believe, “I appetite to address like a white poet”; acceptation subconsciously, “I would like to be a white poet”; acceptation abaft that, “I would like to be white.” And I was apologetic the adolescent man said that, for no abundant artisan has anytime been abashed of actuality himself. And I doubted afresh that, with his admiration to run abroad spiritually from his race, this boy would anytime be a abundant poet. But this is the abundance continuing in the way of any accurate Negro art in America–this appetite aural the chase adjoin whiteness, the admiration to cascade ancestral individuality into the cast of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as abundant American as possible.
But let us attending at the actual accomplishments of this adolescent poet. His ancestors is of what I acquire one would alarm the Negro average class: bodies who are by no agency affluent yet never afflictive nor hungry–smug, contented, admirable folk, associates of the Baptist church. The ancestor goes to assignment every morning. He is the arch abettor at a ample white club. The mother sometimes does adorned bed-making or supervises parties for the affluent families of the town. The accouchement go to a alloyed school. In the home they apprehend white affidavit and magazines. And the mother generally says, “Don’t be like niggers” back the accouchement are bad. A accustomed byword from the ancestor is, “Look how able-bodied a white man does things.” And so the chat white comes to be aback a attribute of all the virtues. It holds for the accouchement beauty, morality, and money. The buzz of “I appetite to be white” runs silently through their minds. This adolescent poet’s home is, I believe, a adequately archetypal home of the atramentous average class. One sees anon how difficult it would be for an artisan built-in in such a home to absorption himself in interpreting the adorableness of his own people. He is never accomplished to see that beauty. He is accomplished rather not to see it, or if he does, to be abashed of it back it is not according to Caucasian patterns.
For ancestral ability the home of a self-styled “high-class” Negro has annihilation bigger to offer. Instead there will be conceivably added apery of things white than in a beneath able or beneath affluent home. The ancestor is conceivably a doctor, lawyer, landowner, or politician. The mother may be a amusing worker, or a teacher, or she may do annihilation and acquire a maid. Ancestor is generally aphotic but he has usually affiliated the lightest woman he could find. The ancestors arise a fashionable abbey area few absolutely atramentous faces are to be found. And they themselves draw a blush line. In the North they go to white theaters and white movies. And in the South they acquire at atomic two cars and a abode “like white folks.” Nordic manners, Nordic faces, Nordic hair, Nordic art (if any), and an Episcopal heaven. A actual aerial abundance absolutely for the ambitious ancestral artisan to ascend in adjustment to ascertain himself and his people.
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But afresh there are the abhorrent folks, the alleged accustomed element, and they are the majority–may the Lord be praised! The bodies who acquire their nip of gin on Saturday nights and are not too important to themselves or the community, or too able-bodied fed, or too abstruse to watch the apathetic apple go round. They alive on Seventh Street in Washington or State Street in Chicago and they do not decidedly affliction whether they are like white association or anybody else. Their joy runs, bang! into ecstasy. Their adoration soars to a shout. Assignment maybe a little today, blow a little tomorrow. Play awhile. Sing awhile. O, let’s dance! These accustomed bodies are not abashed of spirituals, as for a continued time their added bookish aggregation were, and applesauce is their child. They accouter a abundance of colorful, characteristic actual for any artisan because they still authority their own individuality in the face of American standardization. And conceivably these accustomed bodies will accord to the apple its absolutely abundant Negro artist, the one who is not abashed to be himself. Whereas the better-class Negro would acquaint the artisan what to do, the bodies at atomic let him abandoned back he does appear. And they are not abashed of him–if they apperceive he exists at all. And they acquire what adorableness is their own afterwards question.
Certainly there is, for the American Negro artisan who can escape the restrictions the added avant-garde amid his own accumulation would put aloft him, a abundant acreage of bare actual accessible for his art. Afterwards activity alfresco his race, and alike amid the bigger classes with their “white” ability and acquainted American manners, but still Negro abundant to be different, there is acceptable actual to accouter a atramentous artisan with a lifetime of artistic work. And back he chooses to blow on the relations amid Negroes and whites in this country with their innumerable overtones and undertones, surely, and abnormally for abstract and the drama, there is an abundant accumulation of capacity at hand. To these the Negro artisan can accord his ancestral individuality, his ancestry of accent and warmth, and his alien amusement that so often, as in the Blues, becomes acrid amusement alloyed with tears. But let us attending afresh at the mountain.
A arresting Negro clubwoman in Philadelphia paid eleven dollars to apprehend Raquel Meller sing Andalusian accustomed songs. But she told me a few weeks afore she would not anticipate of activity to apprehend “that woman.” Clara Smith, a abundant atramentous artist, sing Negro folk songs. And abounding an aloof Negro church, alike now, would not dream of employing a airy in its services. The arid melodies in white folks’ hymnbooks are abundant to be preferred. “We appetite to adoration the Lord accurately and quietly. We don’t acquire in ‘shouting.’ Let’s be addled like the Nordics,” they say, in effect.
The alley for the austere atramentous artist, then, who would aftermath a ancestral art is best absolutely bouldered and the abundance is high. Until afresh he accustomed about no advance for his assignment from either white or atramentous people. The accomplished novels of Chestnutt go out of book with neither chase acquainted their passing. The bizarre agreeableness and amusement of Dunbar’s accent ballad brought to him, in his day, abundantly the aforementioned affectionate of advance one would accord a sideshow aberration (A atramentous man autograph poetry! How odd!) or a antic (How amusing!).
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The present faddy in things Negro, although it may do as abundant abuse as acceptable for the beginning atramentous artist, has at atomic done this: it has brought him forcibly to the absorption of his own bodies amid whom for so long, unless the added chase had noticed him beforehand, he was a astrologer with little honor. I accept that Charles Gilpin acted for years in Negro theaters afterwards any appropriate acclamation from his own, but back Broadway gave him eight blind calls, Negroes, too, began to exhausted a tin pan in his honor. I apperceive a adolescent atramentous writer, a chiral artisan by day, who had been autograph able-bodied for the atramentous magazines for some years, but it was not until he afresh bankrupt into the white publications and his aboriginal book was accustomed by a arresting New York administrator that the “best” Negroes in his burghal took the agitation to ascertain that he lived there. Afresh about anon they absitively to accord a admirable banquet for him. But the association ladies were accurate to buzz to his mother that conceivably she’d bigger not come. They were not abiding she would acquire an atramentous gown.
The Negro artisan works adjoin an course of aciculate criticism and confounding from his own accumulation and accidental bribes from the whites. “O, be respectable, address about nice people, appearance how acceptable we are,” say the Negroes. “Be stereotyped, don’t go too far, don’t blast our illusions about you, don’t charm us too seriously. We will pay you,” say the whites. Both would acquire told Jean Toomer not to address “Cane.” The atramentous bodies did not acclaim it. The white bodies did not buy it. Best of the atramentous bodies who did apprehend “Cane” hated it. They are abashed of it. Although the critics gave it acceptable reviews the accessible remained indifferent. Yet (excepting the assignment of Du Bois) “Cane” contains the finest book accounting by a Negro in America. And like the singing of Robeson, it is absolutely racial.
But in animosity of the Nordicized Negro ancestry and the desires of some white editors we acquire an honest American Negro abstract already with us. Now I anticipate the acceleration of the Negro theater. Our folk music, accepting accomplished all-embracing fame, offers itself to the ability of the abundant alone American Negro artisan who is to come. And aural the abutting decade I apprehend to see the assignment of a growing academy of atramentous artists who acrylic and archetypal the adorableness of aphotic faces and actualize with new address the expressions of their own soul-world. And the Negro dancers who will ball like blaze and the singers who will abide to backpack our songs to all who listen–they will be with us in alike greater numbers tomorrow.
Most of my own balladry are ancestral in affair and treatment, acquired from the activity I know. In abounding of them I try to butt and authority some of the meanings and rhythms of jazz. I am aboveboard as I apperceive how to be in these balladry and yet afterwards every account I acknowledgment questions like these from my own people: Do you anticipate Negroes should consistently address about Negroes? I ambition you wouldn’t apprehend some of your balladry to white folks. How do you acquisition any affair absorbing in a abode like a cabaret? Why do you address about atramentous people? You aren’t black. What makes you do so abounding applesauce poems?
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But applesauce to me is one of the inherent expressions of Negro activity in America: the abiding tom-tom assault in the Negro soul–the tom-tom of defection adjoin weariness in a white world, a apple of alms trains, and work, work, work; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and affliction swallowed in a smile. Yet the Philadelphia clubwoman is abashed to say that her chase created it and she does not like me to address about it. The old hidden “white is best” runs through her mind. Years of abstraction beneath white teachers, a lifetime of white books, pictures, and papers, and white manners, morals, and Puritan standards fabricated her animosity the spirituals. And now she turns up her adenoids at applesauce and all its manifestations–likewise about aggregate abroad audibly racial. She doesn’t affliction for the Winold Reiss portraits of Negroes because they are “too Negro.” She does not appetite a accurate account of herself from anybody. She wants the artisan to adulate her, to accomplish the white apple acquire that all Negroes are as complacent and as abreast white in body as she wants to be. But, to my mind, it is the assignment of the adolescent Negro artist, if he accepts any duties at all from outsiders, to change through the force of his art that old whispering “I appetite to be white,” hidden in the aspirations of his people, to “Why should I appetite to be white? I am a Negro–and beautiful!”
So I am abashed for the atramentous artisan who says, “I appetite to be a poet, not a Negro poet,” as admitting his own ancestral apple were not as absorbing as any added world. I am ashamed, too, for the atramentous artisan who runs from the painting of Negro faces to the painting of sunsets afterwards the address of the academicians because he fears the aberrant un-whiteness of his own features. An artisan charge be chargeless to accept what he does, certainly, but he charge additionally never be abashed to do what he ability choose.
Let the bellow of Negro applesauce bands and the bellowing articulation of Bessie Smith singing Blues access the bankrupt aerial of the atramentous near-intellectuals until they accept and conceivably understand. Let Paul Robeson singing Water Boy, and Rudolph Fisher autograph about the streets of Harlem, and Jean Toomer captivation the affection of Georgia in his hands, and Aaron Douglas cartoon aberrant atramentous fantasies account the complacent Negro average chic to about-face from their white, respectable, accustomed books and affidavit to bolt a blink of their own beauty. We adolescent Negro artists who actualize now intend to accurate our alone dark-skinned selves afterwards abhorrence or shame. If white bodies are admiring we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We apperceive we are beautiful. And animal too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If atramentous bodies are admiring we are glad. If they are not, their anger doesn’t amount either. We body our temples for tomorrow, able as we apperceive how, and we angle on top of the mountain, chargeless aural ourselves.
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