I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow damned up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are hurt about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish of my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world – I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.

Zora Neale Hurston
How It Feels to be Colored Me (1928)

Zora Neale Hurston. The Granger Collection, New York

The Granger Collection, New York

Using the work of Zora Neale Hurston as a central theme, Project Mosaic infuses African-American subject matter into a wide array of academic disciplines from art and education to anthropology and history. In so doing, the project links a local minority subject to the wider socio-cultural experience, enhances awareness of Africa and African-American culture, and stimulates learning within the context of a liberal arts education.

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston was a born storyteller. As a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist, she communicated the African-American experience and documented African-American culture. In both her fictional and factual accounts of African-American life, Hurston captured the language of the South, rejected ideas of black victimhood, and emphasized a vibrant African-American self. Her contribution placed her among the leading artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance. View a list of her works.

Though Hurston was born in Alabama, Eatonville, Florida was her home. Located two miles from the Rollins’ campus, Eatonville boasts the oldest incorporated African American community in the United States. As Hurston shares with pride in her autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road, “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.”

Read about Hurston’s connection to Rollins College.

View lesson plans for teaching about Zora Neale Hurston in K-12 classes.

Africa and African American Studies and
a Diverse Social Landscape for the New Millennium

Cultural knowledge bolsters opportunities for all students. By exposing students to diversity both in and out of the classroom, colleges and universities not only increase students’ knowledge and understanding of other cultures, but also prepare them to participate responsibly in a heterogeneous and complex society. However, in order to ensure students are truly being educated for global citizenship and responsible leadership, participation in ethnic studies programs needs to reach students from all backgrounds.

Given the diversity in our region and the emphasis on internationalization at Rollins, the Africa and African American Studies (AAAS) program offers ample thematic subjects for study. The African Diaspora, for example, provides a vital link to understanding shifting global circumstances. By integrating AAAS topics of study across the curriculum, Project Mosaic works to enhance student awareness, promote campus engagement, and link AAAS to the wider community all while enhancing classroom experience through multicultural exploration. It also helps broaden students’ major fields of study, prepares them for interdisciplinary inquiries at the graduate level, and enhances their employment opportunities.

An Interdisciplinary Exploration of African-American Culture

Developed by Associate Professor of History Julian Chambliss and funded through an Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) Mellon Faculty Renewal Grant, Project Mosaic fosters synergistic dialogue among faculty from five academic disciplines and greater depth within the disciplinary core of each course. As a result, this multidisciplinary approach maximizes exploration of African and African-American cultures in general and understanding of Hurston in specific.

By incorporating AAAS thematic focuses across disciplines, Project Mosaic adopts a truly liberal arts approach to analyzing peoples of African descent’s past and present culture, achievements, characteristics, and issues in a global context. And it accomplishes this by leveraging participating faculty from the Departments of Anthropology, Art and Art History, Education, and History to lead their students in exploring Hurston’s cultural impact through their distinct disciplinary lens.

In addition, by creating and preserving student work with web-based exhibits, this project builds on recent scholarship that suggests giving students agency to create content is the best way to link technology to the classroom. Thus, Project Mosaic enhances awareness of the subject matter while stimulating learning within the context of a liberal arts experience.

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