I received a couple of kind emails from readers who reached out to say that they appreciated my post about the false child molestation charges leveled against Zora Neale Hurston in the 1940s. One person asked if I could share the letter (written to her friends Carl Van Vechten and Fania Marinoff) referenced in my original post. It’s taken a couple of weeks for me to get to this because the letter is fairly long and I couldn’t find the time to re-type it. Well today, I present the letter transcribed as it appears in Carla Kaplan’s book “Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters.” If you didn’t read the original post, it’s a good idea to read it before the letter for some context.
[October 30, 1948 -- library dated]
974 Ca[u]ldwell Ave
New York City.
Dear Carl and Fania:
No, you by no means invaded my privacy. A dozen times since this horror struck me, I have crept to the phone to talk about it with you, but the horror and the loathing of the filth that had been spewed upon me was so great and so unbelievable, that I could not bring myself to take it in my mouth.
The thing is too fantastic, too evil, too far from reality for me to conceive of it. I am charged with meeting this boy at 4:30 every Saturday afternoon in the basement of a house where I have never been and in company with two other adults whom I have never seen. This was said to be going on for more than a year, the very time when I was in Honduras. In spite of the fact that the woman who is doing this lying knows that I was not in the U.S. because I went from her apartment to Honduras. I laughed when Alexander Miller, [of] the SPCC (Children’s Society) told me that. Then he said, with a look of disappointment on his face, “Oh, but I understood differently.” I urged him to make an investigation of the matter, even give me a lie-detector test, but he brushed it aside. Then he went out into the room where the boy was, and came back to me and said, “but the boys say that it has been going on since then. You say that you returned in the Spring. William says that you have been meeting him early in August.” I laughed at that too, and said that I was not in New York City early in August. I was upstate, and could not have returned earlier than the middle of the month. “Oh maybe he could be off a week in his dates,” Miller countered. When [t]he hearing came, I found that he had fixed the date, the ONLY positive one as August 15th of this year. Then the horror took me, for I saw that he was not seeking truth, but to make his charges stick. Horror of disbelief took me. I could not believe that a thing like that could be happening in the United States and least of all to me. It just could not be true! I must be having a nightmare.
One inconceivable horror after another swept over me. I went out of myself, I am sure, though no one seemed to notice. It seemed that every hour some other terror assailed me, the last being the AFRO AMERICAN sluice of filth. You should know that a Negro who works down in the courts secured the matter and went around peddling it to papers. That is the blow that knocked me loose from all that I have ever looked to and cherished. Louis Waldman, my lawyer, assures me that the thing is so patently false, that I will have an excellent chance to sue both the Children’s Society and the paper.
But listen, Carl and Fania; I care nothing for anything anymore. My country has failed me utterly. My race has seen fit to destroy me without reason, and with the vilest tools conceived of by man so far. A Society, eminently Christian, and supposedly devoted to super-decency has gone so far from it’s announced purpose, not to protect children, but to exploit the gruesome fancies of a pathological case and do this thing to human decency. Please do not forget that this thing was not done in the South, but in the so-called liberal North. Where shall I look in this country for justice?
Read more »