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Intersection: Khalil Gibran Muhammad On Zora’s Contribution To American History

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Zora Neale Hurston: celebrated in Central Florida but "a marginal figure in the everyday teaching of American literature," says Khalil Gibran Muhammad. Photo: US Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons

Eatonville celebrates the life of Zora Neale Hurston this week. Zora Festival is in its 28th year, and culminates with an outdoor festival of the arts next weekend.

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, professor of history, race and public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, will be at the festival, talking about how America needs to do more to recognize the contribution of Black Americans like Hurston to the history and culture of this country.

“We’ve not done a good job in this country expanding our civic lessons, our history lessons, paying attention to both the beauty and pageantry of our past but also the tragedies and challenges,” says Muhammad.

Zora Neale Hurston, like so many Black writers of the past, continues to be a marginal figure in the everyday teaching of American literature in our public schools,” says Muhammad.

“I’m going to keep pushing for us to do a better job at fully appreciating the multiple threads of this crazy quilt that we call American history.”

Muhammad says that includes doing a better job of understanding the role slavery played in shaping the country.

If people aren’t taught about that history, Muhammad says “we’re going to go into the 21st Century not prepared to protect against our own tendency to forget our past and make decisions in this country that can at times be exploitative, can at times be xenophobic, can at times reduce the humanity of others.”



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About Matthew Peddie

Matt Peddie