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Thursday, July 14, 2022

You Don’t Know Us Negroes by Zora Neale Hurston Book

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Overview: Introduction by New York Times bestselling author Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Spanning more than 35 years of work, the first comprehensive collection of essays, criticism, and articles by the legendary author of the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston, showcasing the evolution of her distinctive style as an archivist and author.

“One of the greatest writers of our time.”—Toni Morrison

You Don’t Know Us Negroes by Zora Neale Hurston Book Read Online And Epub File Download More Ebooks Every Category For Go Ebooks Libaray Online Website.

You Don’t Know Us Negroes by Zora Neale Hurston Book Read Online Chapter One

Bits of Our Harlem

We looked up from our desk and he was standing before us, tall, gaunt and middle-aged. In his hand was one of those tin receptacles for charity-begging. Like all other long-suffering Harlemites we shuddered. Beggars with tin cups are so numerous. He smiled and stood there. We tried to look austere—some money-seekers may be easily intimidated—but not so our hero.

“Well, what can I do for you?” we asked, looking the visitor in the face for the first time.

“A few pennies for homeless children,” he answered.

We felt that it was useless to struggle so we donated a dime. No sooner had the coin rattled to the bottom of the cup than we received a hearty “Thank yuh. God will shorely bless yuh.”

We looked closely at his face this time and saw fanatic fires burning in the small eyes set in a thin freckled face. But our eyes rested longest on the mouth and environs.

The short, thin upper-lip showed his Caucasian admixture, but a full drooping under-lip spoke for the Negro blood in him. A fringe of scrubby rusty-red hair completely encircled the whole. When he spoke, four teeth showed forlornly in the bottom jaw. We are still wondering if there were any others scattered about in his aging gums.

“You don’t know me, do you?” he asked.

“I am afraid I haven’t had the pleasure,” we answered.

“Well, they calls me th’ black Longfellow.”1

We brightened. “These be gray days, and a sweet singer in Israel is to be highly honored. Would you favor us with a selection or two?”

“Shorely, shorely; but drop in a few mo’ pennies, please.”

What are a few pennies against the songs of an immortal bard? We dropped in six cents.

The poet cleared his throat and sang:

“God Shall Without a Doubt Heal Every Nation”

“There shall be no sickness, no sorrow after while,

There shall be no sickness, no sorrow, after while,

There wil’ be no more horror,

Watch for joy and not for sorrow,

God shall heal up every nation tomorrow, after while.

God will bring good things to view after while,

God shall make all things new,

Every child of God will without a doubt be called a Jew,

God will make us all one nation, after while.”

“Ain’t that beautiful, now?” the poet asked. I’ll recite yuh another one.”

Before we could protest he was in the midst of

“The Automobiles”

“Once horses and camels was the style,

Now they fly ’round in automobile,

They don’t look at a policeman’s sign,

Sometimes they run over chillun,

Sometimes over a divine,

When they are drunk with devils’ wine,

They scoots—”

But we had fled into the inner office with our fingers in our ears.

* * *

The hurly-burly of Lenox Avenue fretted our soul.2 The dirty corpses of yesterday’s newspapers, flapping upon the pavement or lying supine in the gutter, together with the host of the unwashed and washed but glaringly painted, was too unlovely and we fled up 181st Street.3 We were not really hungry but we longed for rest.

A little sign caught our eyes. “Odds and Ends,” it read. A yellowish teapot was depicted in the midst of the inscription. A little hunger, a great weariness of spirit, and a sufficient amount of curiosity drew us into the basement dining room.

A raucous bell rang when we opened the door and a soft-footed attendant instantly appeared to take charge of our wraps.

Back of a green screen was a snug room full of odds and ends. Chairs from Colonial New England, bits of pottery from France and Spain, candlesticks from China, bric-a-brac from Nippon, samplers from England—the ends of the world brought together in a basement. The effect was pleasing, very pleasing.

And the guests. At one table was a woman writer of some ability in company with a wealthy realtor. In a corner, dining alone, a lawyer of national fame slowly sipped his coffee behind a red candle and nodded to a world-famous baritone and composer. A widely discussed editor was dining with a young woman who hopes to be an editor some day.

But the atmosphere is the most attractive thing about “Odds and Ends.” We do not know whether it is the subtle lighting, the ingenious arrangement of the furnishings, or the spirit of the great number of celebrities that frequent the place. There IS a peace, a calm that falls like a benediction upon the guest who enters there. The food was delicious, but mere food does not create atmosphere. Perhaps it is the kindly spirit of the proprietor—we do not know him yet—that bids the weary rest. 

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