Patterson, Tiffany Ruby 1946-

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Patterson, Tiffany Ruby 1946-


Born January 14, 1946. Education: University of Minnesota, Ph.D.


Office—Hamilton College, 198 College Hill Rd., Clinton, NY 13323. E-mail—[email protected].


State University of New York, Binghamton University, NY, Binghamton, former associate professor of history; Hamilton College, Clinton, NY, associate professor of Africana Studies.


Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life (nonfiction), Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2005.

Contributor to Les diasporas dans le monde contemporain. Un état des lieux, edited by W. Berthomiere and C. Chivallon, Pessac, Éditions Karthata/Maison des Sciences de l'homme d'Aquitaine (Paris, France), 2006. Contributor to African Studies Review. Associate editor of series "Black Women in United States History."


Tiffany Ruby Patterson is an associate professor of Africana studies at Hamilton University and the author of the book Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life. Hurston, who lived from 1891 to 1960, was an African American woman who wrote prolifically, publishing novels, short stories, plays, and autobiographies. She also collected and published folktales from the South. Her writing is frequently grouped with other work from the Harlem Renaissance, but at the time of its creation, some of the Harlem Renaissance authors were opposed to Hurston's work. Originally rather obscure, her writings were eventually rediscovered and critically acclaimed. Some of her contemporaries, however, notably Richard Wright, felt she did the African American community a disservice by writing about ordinary black lives instead of concentrating on the injustice of racism. The "proper" content of African American literature was much debated during the time of the Harlem Renaissance, by such literary figures such as Wright, Langston Hughes, and W.E.B. Du Bois. Eventually Hurston's writings gained broad acceptance and are now included on the reading lists of many college courses.

In Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life, Patterson challenges the notion that Hurston's work is apolitical and that it fails to address the problems faced by African Americans. She frequently wrote about segregated black towns and black labor camps, but without comment on the injustice that created segregation or its consequences. It was Hurston's choice to record African-American life as it was, rather than using white racism as her focal point. In her view, she gave dignity to African American life by creating an accurate record and reflection of it.

In her book, Patterson states that although Hurston's works did not call for revolution, they were politically progressive in their focus on African American life as seen through the eyes of African Americans. She also points out the great value of Hurston's writing as a historical source of information on African American culture in the segregated South. "Patterson's strong defense of Hurston's writings as a source suggests that she anticipates an argument with her historian colleagues, but she is right to argue that dismissing Hurston's work as merely fiction prevents us from learning what we can about the people to whom Hurston had such remarkable access," said Lori Robison in the Journal of Southern History.

Regennia N. Williams, reviewing Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life in the Journal of African American History, stated: "This study is at once a narrative of black self-determination, self-help, and independent thinking not often associated with the history of African Americans in the Jim Crow South." Williams believed that Hurston's work shows African Americans to be "more than just victims of white oppression," and she pointed out: "Patterson takes care to remind us that Hurston's work can be brutally honest in its treatment of some of African America's most sensitive topics, including color prejudice and domestic and other forms of black on black violence."

Nathan Grant, writing in the African American Review, noted that Patterson's enjoyment of her subject was evident in her writing. She "delights in the history of the black U.S. South throughout her recounting of that history in Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life," said Grant. Another reviewer, Harry A. Reed writing in the Journal of American History, commented: "Given the conflicts that have always swirled around Hurston and her contributions, Tiffany Ruby Patterson had to overcome at least two specific problems. She had to confront Hurston's complex, controversial personality and political pronouncements and to address literature's legitimacy as historical source material. She succeeds admirably."



African American Review, September 22, 2006, Nathan Grant, review of Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life, p. 593.

Black Issues Book Review, September 1, 2005, Warren J. Carson, review of Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, April 1, 2006, M.A. McEuen, review of Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life, p. 1467.

Journal of African American History, January 1, 2007, Regennia N. Williams, review of Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life, p. 129.

Journal of American History, June 1, 2006, Harry A. Reed, review of Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life, p. 262.

Journal of American Studies, December 1, 2006, Rachel Parebrother, review of Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life, p. 672.

Journal of Southern History, November 1, 2006, Lori Robison, review of Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life, p. 977.


Binghamton University Web site, (June 11, 2008), Tiffany Patterson, "Seeking Social Justice in 21st Century.", (June 11, 2008), author profile.

Hamilton College Web site, (June 11, 2008), "Patterson Gives Paper at Race and Pedagogy Conference."

Temple University Press Web site, (June 11, 2008), author profile.

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Patterson, Tiffany Ruby 1946-

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