Zora Neale Hurston and Black History Comes Alive

I was not very aware of Zora Neale Hurston when I went to Black His­tory Comes Alive’s one-man show on her life. I knew of her in the gen­eral high school kind of level. Knew that she was a part of the Harlem Renais­sance, and a promi­nent female African-American writer. How­ever, when Tiffany came on stage and uttered her first line as Hurston I was engrossed. The per­for­mance was part his­tory, and part read­ing. Two short sto­ries were pre­formed, The Gilded Six-Bits, and Sweat. The first was the story of a young cou­ple in the troughs of mar­i­tal bliss, when an inci­dent occurs and alters their feel­ings for each other. The sec­ond Sweat is about a mar­ried cou­ple. How­ever, this one is less up beat than the for­mer. The first story was there to make you real­izes that even if there are tri­als in a rela­tion­ship you have to persevere.

A com­mon theme through­out Hurston’s works were mar­ried cou­ples. How­ever, I learned that Hurston her­self was only mar­ried once. At the per­for­mance there was a brief men­tion to her time at Howard Uni­ver­sity, and that she stud­ied Anthro­pol­ogy. She dis­cussed a few of her var­i­ous rela­tion­ships, includ­ing one to a man twenty years her senior. She also talked about her par­ents. Her father was the inspi­ra­tion for her novel “Jonah’s Gourd Vine.” She keyed us into the mean­ing behind the Gourd Vine metaphor. The Gourd Vine is a vine that holds a fruit on it, and in the novel the fruit pro­gres­sively becomes rot­ten, and this is a metaphor for the hus­bands ques­tion­able life style.

The show itself was beau­ti­fully han­dled by the Black Stu­dent Union. The per­former made good use of the few select props that appeared on stage. All of the sto­ries were told in the style they were meant to be con­veyed. The per­former was a spo­ken word artist from Chicago; she under­stands that the deliv­ery of a phrase, or even a sin­gle word, could make a world of dif­fer­ence on the mean­ing of the story.

Over all I found myself wholly engaged, and hang­ing on every word. The sto­ries were pre­formed bril­liantly and I learned so much within that hour that I am going to add Zora Neale Hurston to my read­ing list.

Image cour­tesy of Biography.com
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