The focal point of the paper is to present a Comparison and Contrast Essay between “How It Feels to be Colored Me,” by Zora Neale Hurston and “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Both the articles are based on the pain of racism and discrimination in the United States. While Zora Neale Hurston conveys her pain through an article of nostalgia and realization, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is more direct and analytical in his approach through his open letter to a ‘Fellow Clergyman’.
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The fundamental similarity between Zora Neale Hurston and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is that both of them are against the evil of racism and racial discrimination. King is positively vocal in this respect, he almost roars in the context, “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained.” (King, 1) Similarly, Hurston presents her disappointments regarding evil of racism and racial discrimination in her own sorrowful whispers that are true to the heart and speaks the pain of her soul. He remarks about racism, “I have no separate feeling about being an American citizen and colored. I am merely a fragment of the Great Soul that surges within the boundaries. My country, right or wrong. 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.” (Hurston, 1)
Hurston starts her article with the nostalgic remembrance with a description of her youth, “Up to my thirteenth year I lived in the little Negro town of Eatonville, Florida. It is exclusively a colored town. The only white people I knew passed through the town going to or coming from Orlando.” (Hurston, 1) This is an approach that that very sentimental and soft in nature with the insight of a woman facing the world. In sharp contrast, King presents his letter in a form of argument with evidence and facts. He indicates, “We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates.” (King, 1) The differences in approach are clear. King is extremely direct, systematic and methodical and backs his clams with facts.
King is far angrier than Hurston. He states, “There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts.” (King, 1) King is restless in his communication yet he is organized enough to present his arguments in a manner that his letter hits the proper note of anger. Hurston, on the other hand, is more solemn in nature and narrates her life and experience as a colored individual in a sad and melancholic tone. She indicates, “They liked to hear me “speak pieces” and sing and wanted to see me dance the parse-me-la, and gave me generously of their small silver for doing these things, which seemed strange to me for I wanted to do them so much that I needed bribing to stop, only they didn’t know it.” (Hurston, 1) It was like as if she was not blaming anyone for the discrimination and treating her color differently but felt sad deep within.
However, the most interesting difference between the writings of Zora Neale Hurston and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is their feeling of immediate future. While King is extremely positive and optimistic about the future his movement, Hurston appears to be subjected to the approach of discrimination and accepts the fact that there is a place for her color and she is contented to be placed in that manner. King affirmatively states in his concluding part of his letter, “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.” (King, 1) This is the voice of a leader, a person who visualizes the best possibility for his cause and he is extremely confident of a better future. However, the views of Hurston are sober as she speaks in her concluding paragraph, “I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall. Against a wall in company with other bags, white, red and yellow. Pour out the contents, and there is discovered a jumble of small, priceless and worthless things.” (Hurston, 1) This is the fundamental difference between the two authors. One is angry and out to secure the position of the race with affirmation and the other is melancholic with the position and the situation.
Hurston, Zora Neale. “How It Feels to be Colored Me.” About.com. Web.
King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Abacus. Web.
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