Zora Neale Hurston Best Quotes 💬

Zora Neale Hurston was a fine storyteller who tapped from the rhetoric of far south African American folklore, lingo, and cultural history. Hurston’s best quotes seem to represent the worldview of such communities but are also based largely on her own personal experiences.

Zora Neale Hurston

(1891-1960), American

Zora Neale Hurston made several important quotes across major aspects of life and human living. She has quotes on love, pain and agony, grief, discrimination, and selfhood, among others. However, if there is one thing Hurston was known well for during her days by her contemporaries, that one thing is the fact that she was intrepid and irreverent in things she believed in. These qualities extend to several of her best quotes, as readers will find in this article. 

Poverty

There is something about poverty that smells like death. Dead dreams dropping off the heart like leaves in a dry season rotting around the feet…

If there’s ever going to be a writer who has been down, low, and needy enough to say inspiring words about being poor, that writer is nonother than Zora Neale Hurston

Hurston had quite an eventful life filled with a lot of highs and lows. She knew, from an early age, what poverty was and tasted it – given that her father and mother – John and Lucy Hurston – were folks with little means. 

A sign of lack in Janie’s life may well have shown earliest when the family moved from Alabama to Florida, a move that probably was triggered by not only the search for a greener pasture but also one for a safe haven – given that Florida was one of the earliest states that supported black’s independence. 

One of the most serious objections to me was that having nothing, I still did not know how to be humble. A child in my place ought to realize I was lucky to have a roof over my head and anything to eat at all.

Zora Neale Hurston may have admitted here her tendencies to arrogance and irreverence as in fact, many – who lived in her period and in the present – find her or her work to be. 

Again, she calls to mind her lacks – and this might actually mean much more than physical or material lacks but also spiritual and emotional lacks as well – and usually, when someone is poor or lacking, what follows is humility. But not for Hurston. She was always bold and defiant in standing up for what she believed in. 

Zora was exposed to the streets early on in life after her father couldn’t afford to pay for her education, and she dropped out, got a job, and lived by herself – only shuttling between the homes of her elder siblings whenever the going got tougher. 

Education and Curiosity

Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. It is a seeking that he who wishes may know the cosmic secrets of the world and they that dwell therein.

Getting formal education was such an important part of Zora Neale Hurston’s life, and it truly shaped her into the literary icon that the world remembers her to be today. 

In a late 1800 – early 1900’s society that was sort of male-focused, it was no doubt hard for women to get serious education – and even much harder for black women such as Hurston to get into school. However, the author was fortunate enough to have one, an outcome which partly became possible because of a turn of events that saw her family achieve so much – with her father even serving as a mayor in Eatonville, Florida, in the early 1900s. 

Hurston was a bona fide social researcher who got certification in anthropology and ethnography. Much of the author’s novels and other works were written out of the knowledge she gained traveling around and researching about certain races, groups, and peoples and collecting and retelling their stories. 

Love: What it Means and What it Does to One

Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.

Hurston was a believer in love and shows that in her trademark novel, ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God,’ a book which frankly can be summarized as one based on the search for true love and freedom for selfhood. 

Throughout the story of ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God and a few of her other writings, there are a number of expressions that seek to define love or its feeling in the truest of senses, yet this one-liner quote becomes one of the most powerful excerpts from the book that sort of does poetic justice to the subject. 

Love is like the sea. It’s a moving thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from the shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.

Again, another one of the finest quotes of love from Zora Neale Hurston, where she tries to lyrically unravel the intricacies of love. Over the cause of her life, Hurston endured three different marriages, and just like her book character, she failed to keep any of the three – as they ended in divorce.

The theme of love is one that Zora Neale Hurston was fascinated about, and the reason why might be because of how it had eluded her for many years, and she couldn’t quite hold it firmly and run away with it. Hurston’s most popular quotes on love are bound to impact any reader from all races. 

Sorrow and Courage

I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and a sword in my hands.

Hurston had a way of channeling her inner self through the rough experiences of her book characters, and here she is in this quote recapturing, amid subtly, her life’s lows and how they boomeranged into something of courage and drive to want to succeed. 

Losing her mother at such an early stage was arguably the author’s biggest sorrow, and the event in fact, spiraled a wide array of difficult moments for her going forward – including missing out on motherly attention, care, and protection, and having to drop out of school later in life. 

Femininity 

I belong to no race nor time. I am the eternal feminine with its string of beads.

Zora Neale Hurston was one of the foremost promoters of feminism, and she was able to do so outstandingly well through her speeches, social engagements, and literary works. 

Speaking of her work being used as an advocate for women’s rights, her greatest work, ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’, embodies some of the most intense arguments challenging the policies that restrict women’s rights in the early 1900s. 

Hurston was opposed to a number of social norms that detracted from women – particularly those that restricted them from being mere housewives, left them vulnerable to domestic violence and abuse, and even those prevent them from pursuing their passions and dreams. This movement is all her best work, ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ is all about. 

Art of Writing 

Perhaps, it is just as well to be rash and foolish for a while. If writers were too wise, perhaps no books would get written at all.

Zora Neale Hurston started her writing career way into her adulthood – with her first publication coming in her university days – and so might not be considered a born writer. Still, this didn’t stop her from achieving so many accolades and then becoming well-known as one of the greatest African American female writers. 

Her advice for young, up-and-coming writers is to get busy writing every day – regardless of whether they have all the pieces to their story. She believes that while it may take time to fully mature and become a writing sage, the process of getting there is well worth documenting and that in itself makes for an enriching story capable of causing an impact on the vast majority of the reading audience.

Happiness

Happiness is nothing but everyday living seen through a veil.

The concept of happiness, for Hurston, is not merely as black and white as people see it. Mentality matters when it comes to being happy, and the author believes it runs deep beyond just being rich and comfortable socially, for even those can exist yet a person still feels sad and empty. 

A person should have to intentionally seek happiness before happiness finds them. And just like this witty quote here from Hurston, putting on a veil shows one’s readiness to try and be happy even in the harshest or trivial situations.

Discrimination and Dealing with it

Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.

Zora Neale Hurston’s admission of being discriminated against is quite touching, and other than discrimination emanating from racism, being a female writer in an industry then run by men was also something that added to her overall criticism.

The author’s first experience of racism happened in Florida in an event that was so horribly felt that she admitted she couldn’t forget. But with Hurston, what was more remarkable – and frankly a driving force for her achievements – was the way she dealt with such treatments and never allowed that to think any less of herself, just as courageous as she sounds in this quote.

Opinions and Feelings

I made up my mind to keep my feelings to myself since they did not seem to matter to anyone but me.

When one has so many critics breathing down one’s neck, there is every tendency that one might lose confidence in one’s ability and revert to one’s shell.

As mentioned before, Zora Neale Hurston managed to stir up a lot of criticisms around her work and personality – not only from the vast contingency of her reading audience but also from fellow black writers who didn’t think she was representing the culture well enough. 

Hurston would never care too much about her critics’ opinions, and this quote of hers goes to show her state of mind and how intellectually defiant and irreverent she was during her days. 

FAQs

What is a fascinating truth about Zora Neale Hurston?

The author has a lot of interesting facts about her life; a more fascinating fact is that she slashed ten years off her real age to qualify for a scholarship and lived by the false age for the rest of her life.

Did Hurston fall out with members of her black community?

Zora Neale Hurston did a few works that were considered appealing to the white race and demeaning to the black race. For this reason, she received huge criticisms from the black community – including allegations that she collected some money to do what she did. 

What inspired Hurston to write her greatest book ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’?

The Harlem Renaissance, slavery, and the American civil war all served as an inspiration to Zora Neale Hurston in writing ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ – as much as her life and personal experiences in Eatonville, Florida.  

What is a favorite quote of author Zora Neale Hurston?

“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”

Victor Onuorah
About Victor Onuorah
Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.
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