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

Previous articleHappy King Day! On Blackness and Beauty
Next articleHow to Pledge Black Sororities and Fraternities
A member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Crystal A. deGregory, Ph.D. is a graduate of the historic Fisk University ’03. She received her master’s and doctoral degrees in history from Vanderbilt University. She also holds a master of education degree in curriculum and instruction from Tennessee State University, ’14, where she formerly taught in the department of history, geography and political science. A professional historian and passionate HBCU advocate, she is editor-in-chief of the forthcoming The Journal of HBCU Research + Culture. She is also a regular contributor to HBCU Digest, is a co-host of Black Docs radio show, and offers a wide-range of expertise on multiple topics including history, culture, education, black fraternity and sorority life and of course HBCUs. Follow her on twitter at @HBCUstorian, visit her website at www.CrystaldeGregory.com, or contact her via email at cadegregory@HBCUstory.com.


  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.