See Rock City

See Rock City

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Notasulga, AL

Notasulga is a town in Lee and Macon Counties in the U.S. state of Alabama. As of the 2000 census, the population of the town is 916. The portion in Lee County is part of the Auburn Metropolitan Area. Author Zora Neale Hurston was born in Notasulga in 1891.

One of the historic homes near Downtown Notasulga

Nickname(s): Hailey Michelle

Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960) was an American folklorist and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. Of Hurston's four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, she is best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Zora Neale Hurston on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.


Early life

Hurston was the fifth of eight children of John Hurston and Lucy Ann Hurston (née Potts). Her father was a Baptist preacher, tenant farmer, and carpenter, and her mother was a schoolteacher. Though Hurston claimed as an adult that she was born in Eatonville, Florida in 1901, she was actually born in Notasulga, Alabama, where her father grew up; her family moved to Eatonville, the first all-Black town to be incorporated in the United States, when she was three. Her father later became mayor of the town, which Hurston would glorify in her stories as a place black Americans could live as they desired, independent of white society. Hurston spent the remainder of her childhood in Eatonville, and describes the experience of growing up in Eatonville in her 1928 essay "How It Feels to Be Colored Me".

In 1904, Hurston's mother died and her father remarried almost immediately. Hurston's father and new stepmother sent her away to school in Jacksonville, Florida. She later worked as a maid to the lead singer in a traveling Gilbert & Sullivan theatrical company. In 1917, Hurston began attending Morgan Academy, the high school division of Morgan College in Baltimore, Maryland. It was at this time, and apparently to qualify for a free high-school education, that the 26-year-old Hurston began claiming 1901 as her date of birth. She graduated from Morgan Academy in 1918.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God is a 1937 novel and the best-known work by African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston. Set in central and southern Florida in the early 20th century, the novel garnered attention and controversy at the time of its publication, and has come to be regarded as a seminal work in both African-American literature and women's literature. Time included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.

Plot summary

The main character, an African American woman in her early forties named Janie Crawford, tells the story of her life and journey via an extended flashback to her best friend, Pheoby, so that Pheoby can tell Janie's story to the nosy community on her behalf. Her life has three major periods corresponding to her marriages to three very different men.

Nanny, Janie's grandmother, was a slave who became pregnant by her master and gave birth to a daughter, Leafy. Though Nanny tries to create a good life for her daughter, Leafy is raped by her school teacher and she becomes pregnant with Janie. Shortly after Janie's birth, Leafy begins to drink and stay out at night. Eventually, she runs away leaving Janie with Nanny. Nanny transfers all the hopes she had for Leafy to Janie. When Janie is sixteen, Nanny sees her kissing a neighborhood boy, Johnny Taylor, and fears that Janie will become a "mule" to some man, so she arranges for Janie to marry Logan Killicks, an older man and farmer who is looking for a wife to keep his home and help on the farm. Janie has the idea that marriage must involve love, forged in a pivotal early scene where she sees bees pollinating a pear tree, and believes that marriage is the human equivalent to this natural process. Logan Killicks, however, wants a domestic helper rather than a lover or partner, and after he tries to force her to help him with the hard labor of the farm, Janie runs off with the glib Jody (Joe) Starks, who takes her to Eatonville.

Starks arrives in Eatonville (the United States's first all-black community) to find the residents devoid of ambition, so he arranges to buy more land from the neighboring landowner, hires some local residents to build a general store for him to own and run, and has himself appointed mayor. Janie soon realizes that Joe wants her as a trophy wife. He wants the image of his perfect wife to reinforce his powerful position in town, as he asks her to run the store but forbids her from participating in the substantial social life that occurs on the store's front porch.

After Starks passes away, Janie finds herself financially independent and beset with suitors, some of whom are men of some means or have prestigious occupations, but she falls in love with a drifter and gambler named Vergible Woods who goes by the name of Tea Cake throughout the story. She falls in love with Tea Cake after he plays the harmonica for her. She sells the store and the two head to Jacksonville and get married, only to move to the Everglades region soon after for Tea Cake to find work planting and harvesting beans. While their relationship has its ups and downs, including mutual bouts of jealousy, Janie now has the marriage with love that she had wanted.

The area is hit by the great Okeechobee hurricane, and while Tea Cake and Janie survive it, Tea Cake is bitten by a rabid dog while saving Janie from drowning. He contracts the disease himself. He ultimately tries to shoot Janie with his pistol, but she shoots him with a rifle in self-defense. She is charged with murder. At the trial, Tea Cake's black, male friends show up to oppose her, while a group of local white women arrive to support her. The all-white jury acquits Janie, and she gives Tea Cake a lavish funeral. Tea Cake's friends forgive her, and they want her to remain in the Everglades. However, she decides to return to Eatonville, only to find the residents gossiping about her.


Janie is a prototypical black woman of the new generation. Slavery has long since ended, but living with her grandmother has caused her to be taught a certain linear viewpoint of the world. Her independent and deterministic spirit lies dormant beneath the surface.

The phonetically-written speech of the African Americans in the novel not only gives context but also helps round out the aesthetic of the novel. While Hurston has been criticized for being condescending to her own people, a more critical analysis of the novel and the author reveals an earnest attempt at authenticity. Rather than appearing patronizing, the frequent dialogue is indeed the most oft-quoted and engrossing-- often, as well, the most telling and philosophical.

Hurston liberally sprinkles the novel with spiritual overtones, but despite the title, they are hardly the focal point of the narrative. The characters, including Janie, are appropriately Christian, and their thoughts inevitably reflect this belief in some capacity at various points in the story, whether it be pleading to God in a moment of intense emotion, or simply wondering what 'He' has in store for them. The title has less to do with a literal belief in God, and more with human emotion--They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God, reads the full quotation. The storm, Tea Cake contracting rabies, and other such mercurial things are spoken in terms of 'His' judgment, but once again, they serve as broad strokes of the brush rather than determined proselytizing.

Hurston maintains an emphasis on the worth of humanity. All characters have flaws, whether they be overt or subtle, and they are almost never outright admonished for them; rather they are, at the very least by the omniscient narrator, forgiven for simply being themselves--imperfect beings. Hurston imbues the readers with an intense feeling of brotherhood and community, even in times of struggle. Janie is often criticized and prodded, but she seldom returns the favor, and usually braves it through, believing in their ultimate kind-heartedness and taking solace in her own. During the first chapter, she is criticized for coming back to town in overalls instead of the beautiful dress she left in. She simply tells Pheoby that she doesn't mind them talking about her and if she wants she can inform them about her whereabouts after she is done. She says to Phoeby, "... mah tongue is in mah friend's mouf".


While today Hurston's book is present on many reading lists for African American literature programs in the United States, the book was not universally praised by Hurston's peers, with particular criticism leveled at her use of phonetic spellings of the dialect spoken by blacks of African and Caribbean descent in the South of the early 20th century (for example, "tuh" instead of "to" and "Ah" instead of "I"). Richard Wright called Their Eyes Were Watching God a "minstrel-show turn that makes the white folks laugh" and said it showed "no desire whatever to move in the direction of serious fiction." Ralph Ellison said the book contained a "blight of calculated burlesque." Many other prominent authors that were a part of the Harlem Renaissance were upset that Hurston exposed divisions between light skinned African Americans and those that had darker skin, as seen in Mrs. Turner, as well as the more subtle division between black men and women. This concern is quickly dispelled, however, as the character is largely an adversary of the rest in the book.

The book, written in black southern vernacular, has attracted criticism also by those[who?] who claim it portrays African Americans as ignorant (though Hurston herself is African American). Similar criticisms have been leveled at Twain's Huckleberry Finn. But while Twain transforms the minstrel into a three-dimensional character, viewed through Huck's revelations, Hurston uses black southern dialect to show that complex social relationships and common feats of metaphoric language are possible in something considered "substandard" to English. It has also been criticized for not being able to be read by the average person on account of its overstressed vernacular.

Film adaptation

In 2005 the novel was adapted into a television movie of the same name starring Halle Berry. It was produced by Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions.


Old water tower located across from the Methodist church in Notasulga

Notasulga elects a mayor and five city council members every four years. As of the 2008 election: Mayor, Frank Tew Council District 1 David Waldrop, Council District 2 Terry Broach, Council District 3 Coy Bass, Council District 4 Baxter Garner, Council District 5 Robin Collins,

Notasulga United Methodist Church

City Clerk Wanda Ingram, Water Department Superintendent Tony McCarty, Fire Chief Michael Whitman, Police Chief, JW Tapley

Mill Race And Wheel

Le Sueur's Mill, Ropes Creek, Notasulga vicinity, Macon County, AL