Monthly Archives: July 2010

‘Those that got it, can’t hide it’ – Zora Neale Hurston

NEW! Zora Neale Hurston profile at the Black Atlantic Resource. This new resource includes links to a vast array of primary sources including many of Hurston’s writings, a number of recordings she made for the WPA in the 1930s, and clips from a great documentary about Hurston’s life: ‘Jump at the Sun’.

Hurston was a vivid personality, a great writer, and a key figure of the Harlem Renaissance. She was a well educated anthropologist, playwright and novelist, her works including the novel ‘There Eyes were Watching God’ and collection of folklore: ‘Mules and Men’. Hurston had a deep appreciation of African diasporic folk culture which is celebrated throughout her work. Particularly important are her writings on African-American folktales. These vibrantly record the artistic and inventive telling of folk tales in dialect, at a time when many other key figures in American culture did not value or approve of such representations of black culture.

For many years Hurston’s writings lay in obscurity until they were rediscovered by a new generation. Alice Walker reawakened interest with her article ‘In Search of Zora Neale Hurston’ (1975) and Hurston has since been cited as an influence by Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and Oprah Winfrey amongst others.

Fiercely original and unique Hurston was criticized by many of her contemporaries including Langston Hughes and W.E.B. DuBois for pandering to the tastes of white audiences, particularly her patroness of many years, Charlotte Osgood, and reproducing stereotypes of blackness. However Hurston did not relent declaring “I have the nerve to walk my own way, however hard, in my search for reality, rather than climb upon the rattling wagon of wishful illusions.”

Read more at the Black Atlantic Resource and give your views on the life and work of Zora Neale Hurston here…

“The Nefertiti of Now” – New Josephine Baker Profile

A new profile exploring the life, work and legacies of Josephine Baker has been added to the Black Atlantic Resource. This profile includes links to online videos of Baker’s performances including her infamous ‘Danse Banane’ at the Folie Bergere in 1927, and also footage of her singing ‘Haiti’ in the 1934 film Zou Zou. Linked to this new profile are related research articles including, art historian, exhibition curator, writer and lecturer, Petrine Archer’s article exploring the associated avant-garde arts movement ‘Negrophilia’.

Josephine Baker sent shockwaves throughout Europe and America when she began to perform in the 1920s, and has continued to provoke contrasting reactions ever since. Pablo Picasso called her ‘The Nefertiti of now’ representing her iconic status at the centre of the new craze, celebrating, but also often stereotyping, black cultures in early Twentieth Century Europe. One contemporary interviewer praised her performances with their new dance style as turning the established, ‘concept of rhythm and movement on its head’ while others have argued that Baker’s ‘initial success was achieved at the expense of her integrity and the principles of African Americans’ (Barnwell 1997).

A controversial figure, nevertheless Baker’s international influence and appeal to the present day make her a key figure when communicating, considering and celebrating black Atlantic cultures.

Take a look at our new Josephine Baker profile and continue the debate here…