Saturday, September 18, 2010

Zora Neale Hurston's Facebook

In the introduction to his essay collection Tuxedo Junction, Gerald Early quotes from Zora Neale Hurston's autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road. This passage, about Hurston's experiences working as a teenager in a white theater company, seems to be about a kind of proto-Facebook:

I got a scrapbook, and everybody gave me a picture to put in it. I pasted each one on a separate page and wrote comments under each picture. This created a great deal of interest, because some of the comments were quite pert. They egged me on to elaborate.

It soon becomes a kind of blog:

Then I got another idea. I would comment on daily doings and post the sheets on the call-board. This took on right away. The results stayed strictly mine less than a week because members of the cast began to call aside and tell me things to put in about others. It got to be so general that everybody was writing it. It was just my handwriting, mostly.

Naturally, her account ends up getting hacked:

Then it got beyond that. Most of the cast ceased to wait for me. They would take a pencil to the board and set down their own item. Answers to the wisecracks would appear promptly and often cause uproarious laughter. They always started off with either "Zora says" or "The observant reporter of the Call-board asserts"—Lord, Zora said more things! I was continually astonished, but always amused.

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