On Having It

Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.

Zora Neale Hurston, Howard ’27, Folklorist, anthropologist & author

Zora Neale Hurston

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Bahamian-born "HBCUstorian" Crystal A. deGregory, Ph.D. is the founder of HBCUstory and an associate professor of history at Kentucky State University where she formerly directed the award-winning Atwood Institute for Race, Education, and the Democratic Ideal. She a dynamic professional historian and a passionate Historically Black College and University (HBCU) advocate. A graduate of the historic Fisk, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee State universities, she is the convener of the HBCUstory Symposium, and editor-in-chief of The Journal of HBCU Research + Culture. A passionate believer in the historic mission and future vision for HBCUs, her primary areas of specialization are black higher education and the civil rights struggle.


  1. This is not what Hurston wrote. In 1942 Zora Neale Hurston published an autobiography titled “Dust Tracks on a Road”, and it included the quotation; however, the wording differed from the two versions given above:

    If you haven’t got it, you can’t show it. If you have got it, you can’t hide it.

    Here is an excerpt showing that Hurston was discussing the future success of blacks in the United States and the world. In this passage she emphasized the perspective of the individual. Boldface has been added: 1

    It would be against all nature for all the Negroes to be either at the bottom, top, or in between. It has never happened with anybody else, so why with us? No, we will go where the internal drive carries us like everybody else. It is up to the individual. If you haven’t got it, you can’t show it. If you have got it, you can’t hide it. That is one of the strongest laws God ever made.