Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiographyby Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou (Introduction)
“Warm, witty, imaginative. . . . This is a rich and winning book.”—The New Yorker
Dust Tracks on a Road is the bold, poignant, and funny autobiography of novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, one of American literature’s most compelling and influential authors. Hurston’s powerful novels of the/b>/b>
“Warm, witty, imaginative. . . . This is a rich and winning book.”—The New Yorker
Dust Tracks on a Road is the bold, poignant, and funny autobiography of novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, one of American literature’s most compelling and influential authors. Hurston’s powerful novels of the South—including Jonah’s Gourd Vine and, most famously, Their Eyes Were Watching God—continue to enthrall readers with their lyrical grace, sharp detail, and captivating emotionality. First published in 1942, Dust Tracks on a Road is Hurston’s personal story, told in her own words. The Perennial Modern Classics Deluxe edition includes an all-new forward by Maya Angelou, an extended biography by Valerie Boyd, and a special P.S. section featuring the contemporary reviews that greeted the book’s original publication.
Read an Excerpt
Like the dead-seeming, cold rocks, I have memories within that came out of the material that went to make me. Time and place have had their say.
So you will have to know something about the time and place where I came from, in order that you may interpret the incidents and directions of my life.
I was born in a Negro town. I do not mean by that the black back-side of an average town. Eatonville, Florida, is, and was at the time of my birth, a pure Negro town--charter, mayor, council, town marshal and all. It was not the first Negro community in America, but it was the first to be incorporated, the first attempt at organized self-government on the part of Negroes in America.
Eatonville is what you might call hitting a straight lick with a crooked stick. The town was not in the original plan. It is a by-product of something else.
It all started with three white men on a ship off the coast of Brazil. They had been officers in the Union Army. When the bitter war had ended in victory for their side, they had set out for South America. Perhaps the post-war distress made their native homes depressing. Perhaps it was just that they were young, and it was hard for them to return to the monotony of everyday being after the excitement of military life, and they, as numerous other young men, set out to find new frontiers.
But they never landed in Brazil. Talking together on the ship, these three decided to return to the United States and try their fortunes in the unsettled country of South Florida. No doubt the same thing which had moved them to go to Brazil caused them to choose South Florida.
This had beendark and bloody country since the mid-seventeen hundreds. Spanish, French, English, Indian, and American blood had been bountifully shed.
The last great struggle was between the resentful Indians and the white planters of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. The strong and powerful Cherokees, aided by the conglomerate Seminoles, raided the plantations and carried off Negro slaves into the Spanish-held Florida. Ostensibly they were carried off to be slaves to the Indians, but in reality the Negro men were used to swell the ranks of the Indian fighters against the white plantation owners. During lulls in the long struggle, treaties were signed, but invariably broken. The sore point of returning escaped Negroes could not be settled satisfactorily to either side. Who was an Indian and who was a Negro? The whites contended all who had negro blood. The Indians contended all who spoke their language belonged to the tribe. Since it was an easy matter to teach a slave to speak enough of the language to pass in a short time, the question could never be settled. So the wars went on.
The names of Oglethorpe, Clinch and Andrew Jackson are well known on the white side of the struggle. For the Indians, Miccanopy, Billy Bow-legs and Osceola. The noble Osceola was only a sub-chief, but he came to be recognized by both sides as the ablest of them all. Had he not been captured by treachery, the struggle would have lasted much longer than it did. With an offer of friendship, and a new rifle (some say a beautiful sword) he was lured to the fort seven miles outside of St. Augustine, and captured. He was confined in sombre Fort Marion that still stands in that city, escaped, was recaptured, and died miserably in the prison of a fort in Beaufort, South Carolina. Without his leadership, the Indian cause collapsed. The Cherokees and most of the Seminoles, with their Negro adherents, were moved west. The beaten Indians were moved to what is now Oklahoma. It was far from the then settlements of the Whites. And then too, there seemed to be nothing there that White people wanted, so it was a good place for Indians. The wilds of Florida heard no more clash of battle among men.
The sensuous world whirled on in the arms of ether for a generation or so. Time made and marred some men. So into this original hush came the three frontier-seekers who had been so intrigued by its prospects that they had turned back after actually arriving at the coast of Brazil without landing. These young men were no poor, refuge-seeking, wayfarers. They were educated men of family and wealth.
The shores of Lake Maitland were beautiful, so they chose the northern end and settled. There one of the old forts--built against the Indians, had stood. It had been commanded by Colonel Maitland, so the lake and the community took their names in memory of him. It was Mosquito County then and the name was just. It is Orange County now for equally good reason. The men persuaded other friends in the north to join them, and the town of Maitland began to be in a great rush.
Negroes were found to do the clearing. There was the continuous roar of the crashing of ancient giants of the lush woods, of axes, saws and hammers. And there on the shores of Lake Maitland rose stately houses, surrounded by beautiful grounds. Other settlers flocked in from upper New York state, Minnesota and Michigan, and Maitland became a center of wealth and fashion. In less than ten years, the Plant System, later absorbed into the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, had been persuaded to extend a line south through Maitland, and the private coaches of millionaires and other dignitaries from North and South became a common sight on the siding. Even a president of the United States visited his friends at Maitland.
These wealthy homes, glittering carriages behind blooded horses and occupied by well-dressed folk, presented a curious spectacle in the swampy forests so dense that they are dark at high noon. The terrain swarmed with the deadly diamondback rattlesnake, most potent reptile on the North American continent. Huge, centuries-old bull alligators bellowed their challenge from the uninhabited shores of lakes. It was necessary to carry a lantern when one walked out at night, to avoid stumbling over these immense reptiles in the streets of Maitland.
Meet the Author
Zora Neale Hurston, the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, was deemed "one of the greatest writers of our time" by Toni Morrison. With the publication of Lies and Other Tall Tales, The Skull Talks Back, and What's the Hurry, Fox? new generations will be introduced to Hurston's legacy. She was born in Notasulga, Alabama, in 1891, and died in 1960.
- Date of Birth:
- January 7, 1891
- Date of Death:
- January 28, 1960
- Place of Birth:
- Eatonville, Florida
- Place of Death:
- Fort Pierce, Florida
- B.A., Barnard College, 1928 (the school's first black graduate). Went on to study anthropology at Columbia University.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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The colloquial of Ms. Hurston gives me a chill and attracts my 70s spirit like nothing else I've read. I found myself laughing out loud on the train, at home alone or while walking (yes, i was walking and reading) just at her ability to phrase her emotions in ways so imaginative, only she would have been able to do so. Wonderful story of a wonderful woman.
Growing up as a unique entity in a nineteenth century, dominantly African American town, Zora Neale Hurston was given more than enough material to write her autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road. Originally published in 1942 by J.B. Lippincott, Inc. This insight into Hurston¿s mind stretches the imagination and allows the reader to grow along with her in the novel, making her life very relatable although it may be set in a distant, seemingly unfamiliar world. The relationships Hurston presents and her interpretation of people and situations makes this charming novel easy to follow yet intriguing enough to push the mind to a depth of simple beauty. The history and culture of Eatonville, Florida, the town in which Hurston was born and raised, is very different than most of nineteenth century established towns in that it was founded and run by the free slave people of the south. This creates a sense of pride for her race, despite that many of the people she crossed were less than admirable. Because her town was dominated by one race, Hurston was compelled to explore different cultural atmospheres, leading to her migration. Zora knew she was different from others in the realization that her childhood was not the same as a person of similar circumstances. Although she may have the same kind of family, friends and schooling as other girls of her time, Hurston¿s mind was unique as it slowed down the fast pace of life to take pleasure in the smaller things while exploring and discovering worlds beyond her own. The descriptions may be conceived as confusing and unnecessary, but the intricate details showcase Hurston¿s extent of creativity at a young age. Hurston personifies many emotions and describes her relationship with them to show how she created relationships with these intangible forces that shaped her soul. No matter what circumstance, Hurston never ran from whatever emotion engulfed her being she bonded with each feeling or idea in order to grow from and use it to better herself and learn more about her place in the world. In struggling to become an accomplished writer and establish herself in the literary world, Hurston uses her past experiences to go beyond the boundaries of her culturally and socially stagnant hometown. The writing style is unique in that it parallels complex ideas and emotions with simple descriptions that make her mind frame easier to understand. ¿I have been in Sorrow¿s kitchen and liked out all the pots.¿ The writing style is extremely creative and descriptive. It goes beyond just the average and mundane use of verbs and adjectives but uses dramatic diction to create a better understanding of Hurston¿s point of view. The voice is confident in understanding her life as she looks back on it, comprehending fully her vulnerability and the extent of her growth from her childhood. This piece of work highlights the struggle in growth for a minority woman while demonstrating rhetoric that goes beyond the mundane. Though it may not be the most exciting and dramatic autobiography, the simplicity of the work that is translated through an artistic voice makes it is easy to appreciate if you understand the beauty in taking pleasure in the small things in life.
This book could have been written in twenty pages and would then be more enjoyable to the reader. Her life lacks the major events by which most of us define ourselfs by. She also leaves out major events that were taking place during her time and would have impacted her, like World War I.
Dust Tracks on a Road lacks the character development needed to give a reader the ability to relate to the book and stay interested in it. Not only are there few, if any, main characters besides Zora Neale Hurston herself, but even her character is underdeveloped. This, along with the wandering and almost non-existent plot, leaves little to be interested in. Some of this might be due to the fact that parts of the book were taken out by Hurston's editor.
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the writing was jumpy, she tends to jump from one anecdote to the other without explanation. the book is unrelatable to. just when you are about to give up you get to the last five chapters and then the appendix, which are a redemption. it seems like she was holding back. she doesnt elaborate on events that happened, in fear of who knows what. if your going to attempt to tell it, then tell it all.
This book could have been more interesting if it were shorter. I wasted my time reading thousands of pages..while I could have been doing some other important things.