Up to the age of thirteen, Hurston does not exist in a state of “double consciousness” at all. Instead, because she lives in an all African American community and rarely has contact with white people, she might be said to live in a state of pre-consciousness. As she writes, she “became” African American when she was thirteen and end to school in Jackson. (1008). Before that she had lived in a state innocence and ignorance – unaware of the wider and predominantly racist society that she lived in. she sings and dances for the tourist who pass through town; thy e give her money and we might see in this an echo of what DuBois says about white people looking on black people with “amused contempt and pity.” (45).
There are times when she feels the truth of Dubois’s words about “double consciousness”: she writes “I feel most colored when set against a sharp white background,” (1009) and her description of being in a jazz club with a white friend is hilarious in the contrast between her reactions and those of her white companion. Hurston’s whole body has responded rhythmically to the jazz until she feels “I am in the jungle and living in the jungle way….My pulse is throbbing like a war drum.” (1010.). By contrast, in reaction to the music her white companion says, in a comic anti-climax, “Good music they have here.” (1010). Hurston comments; “He is so pale with his whiteness then and I am so colored.” (1010).
However, at times Hurston’s attitude is more optimistic than Dubois’s talk of “two warring ideals” would suggest. Hurston states, “at certain times I have no race,” (1010) and she also writes, “I belong to no race and no time. I am the eternal feminine with its string of beads.” (1010). In contrast Hurston seems generally more confident and at ease with who she is, and states, in contradiction of DuBois, “I have no separate feeling about being an American citizen and colored…. My country right or wrong. (1010). Earlier she had dismissed the importance of slavery, which she says is, “sixty years in the past.” (1009).
Hurston’s confidence in her as an individual is slightly different from Dubois’s view of what it was like to be an African American in a racist society. The date of publication of Hurston’s piece and her status at the time may explain her different perspective. In 1929 Hurston was a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance – a fresh and energetic arts movement amongst African Americans which resulted in some important cultural achievements – no wonder she feels more confident and less divided than DuBois!
DuBois , W E B. The Souls of Black Folk. 1903. Chicago: McClurg. Web.
Hurston, Zora Neale.”How It Feels to Be Colored Me’. 1928. Pages 1008 – 1011. Gates Jr., Henry Louis & McKay, Nellie Y.. (eds) The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. 1997. New York: W.W. Norton. Print.