Although Zora Neale Hurston is best known for her fiction — and especially for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God — the luminary of the Harlem Renaissance was educated at Barnard College as an anthropologist. In 1942, she interviewed the Florida cowboy Lawrence Silas, a black man who, during the Jim Crow era, had earned the respect of those in the beef industry for his fairness and skill.
In “Lawrence of the River,” published in the Post on September 5, 1942, Hurston calls Silas’ story “a sign and symbol of the strength of the nation” that “helps to explain our history, and makes a promise for the future.”
On full display in the story is Hurston’s knack for catching the rhythm and cadence of the Southern dialect. How Silas speaks — and how Hurston reproduces that speech — reveals as much about his personality as what he says.
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