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Poker! - Zora Neale Hurston Poker!

Written by: Zora Neale Hurston, Copyrighted in 1931

Published By: Public Domain (Amazon) Kindle Edition

The play was transcribed from the original handwritten manuscript, complete with penciled notations.



Black Baby
Sack Daddy
Tush Hawg
Aunt Dilsey

Poker! is a very short play that takes place in a dingy front room of a shotgun house in New York. The play centers on a host of characters playing poker and talking a bunch of “smack.”

Aunt Dilsey comes in and tells them they are all going to go to hell for “gamblin’ and carryin’ on.” While she is talking the poker players are pulling aces out of their sleeves, vest pockets, and shoes.

More then one player ends up with four (4) aces and they argue. Guns come out and the shooting starts.

In the end, Aunt Dilsey returns and observes the bloodshed. She says, “They wouldn’t lissen -- It sure is goin’ to be a whole lot tougher in hell now!”

Zora Neale Hurston was an African-American woman, born in 1891. During the time the play was written she lived in Westfield, New Jersey, a short distance from New York City. My assumption is that the play’s setting is Harlem, in 1931 at the tail-end of the Depression and the Harlem Renaissance.

This was a dispirit time and the poker players were probably disheartened men. They apparently thought nothing about cheating to get money. Everyone can not have four (4) aces. In the end it was everyone’s loss.

Hurston a trained anthropologist uses the colloquial language of the day, in the play. She is writing about a class of people who are different from her background. I am not convinced that she really understands the people she is writing about. Further, I question whether gender had any influence in her portrayal of men playing poker.