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Zora Neale Hurston

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Title: Zora Neale Hurston  
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Subject: Harlem Renaissance, Old Right (United States), Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, American Folklore Society, Franz Boas
Collection: 1891 Births, 1960 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Novelists, 20Th-Century Women Writers, African-American Novelists, African-American Short Story Writers, African-American Social Scientists, African-American Women Writers, American Anthropologists, American Anti-Communists, American Folklorists, American Women Anthropologists, American Women Novelists, American Women Writers, Barnard College Alumni, Cardiovascular Disease Deaths in Florida, Columbia University Alumni, Deaths from Stroke, Florida Republicans, Guggenheim Fellows, Harlem Renaissance, Howard University Alumni, Journalists from Alabama, Negro World Contributors, Neurological Disease Deaths in the United States, Old Right (United States), Oral Historians, People from Brevard County, Florida, People from Macon County, Alabama, People from St. Lucie County, Florida, People from Westfield, New Jersey, People of the New Deal Arts Projects, Women Anthropologists, Works Progress Administration Workers, Writers from Alabama, Writers from Florida, Writers of American Southern Literature, Zora Neale Hurston
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Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston
Hurston between 1935 and 1943
Born (1891-01-07)January 7, 1891
Notasulga, Alabama, US
Died January 28, 1960(1960-01-28) (aged 69)
Fort Pierce, Florida, US
Occupation Folklorist, anthropologist, novelist, short story writer
Alma mater Howard University
Barnard College
Columbia University
Period c. 1925–1950s
Notable works Their Eyes Were Watching God


Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891[1][2] – January 28, 1960) was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and author. Of Hurston's four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, she is best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.

In addition to new editions of her work being published after a revival of interest in her in 1975, her manuscript Every Tongue Got to Confess (2001), a collection of folktales gathered in the 1920s, was published posthumously after being discovered in the Smithsonian archives.


  • Biography 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • College 1.2
    • Adulthood 1.3
  • Legacy and honors 2
    • Anthropological and folkloric fieldwork 2.1
    • Later years 2.2
    • Death 2.3
  • Literary career 3
    • 1920s 3.1
    • 1930s 3.2
    • 1940s and 1950s 3.3
    • Public obscurity 3.4
    • Posthumous recognition 3.5
  • Politics 4
  • Criticism and plagiarism 5
  • Selected bibliography 6
  • Film and television 7
  • See also 8
  • Further reading 9
  • References 10
    • Notes 10.1
    • Citations 10.2
  • External links 11


Early life

Hurston was the fifth of eight children of John Hurston and Lucy Ann Hurston (née Potts). Her father was a Baptist preacher, tenant farmer, and carpenter, and her mother was a school teacher. She was born in Notasulga, Alabama, on January 7, 1891, where her father grew up and her grandfather was the preacher of a Baptist church.[3][4]

When she was three, her family moved to Eatonville, Florida; in 1887 it was one of the first all-black towns to be incorporated in the United States. Hurston said she always felt that Eatonville was "home" to her as she grew up there, and sometimes she claimed it as her birthplace.[5] Her father later was elected as mayor of the town in 1897 and in 1902 became preacher of its largest church, Macedonia Missionary Baptist.

Hurston later glorified Eatonville in her stories as a place where African Americans could live as they desired, independent of white society. In 1901, some northern schoolteachers visited Eatonville and gave Hurston a number of books that opened her mind to literature; she described it as a kind of "birth".[6] Hurston spent the remainder of her childhood in Eatonville, and describes the experience of growing up there in her 1928 essay, "How It Feels to Be Colored Me".

In 1904, Hurston's mother died. Her father remarried to Matte Moge almost immediately; this was considered a minor scandal, as it was rumored that he had had relations with Moge before his first wife's death.[7] Hurston's father and stepmother sent her away to a Baptist boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida. They eventually stopped paying her tuition and the school expelled her. She later worked as a maid to the lead singer in a traveling Gilbert & Sullivan theatrical company.[8]

In 1917, Hurston began attending Morgan College, the high school division of

  • Howard University
    • Zora Neale Hurston collection in the Manuscript Division of the Howard Archive
  • Library of Congress
    • Polk County, a Comedy of Negro Life on a Sawmill Camp, with Authentic Negro Music, in Three Acts
  • Rollins College
    • Project Mosaic: Zora Neale Hurston
    • Olin Library Special Collection and Archive Zora Neale Hurston Collection
  • Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
    • Zora Neale Hurston Collection
  • State Library and Archives of Florida
    • Sound recordings of Hurston in the 1930s
    • Zora Neale Hurston, the WPA in Florida, and the Cross City Turpentine Camp
  • University of Central Florida
    • Zora Neale Hurston Digital Archive
  • University of Florida
    • Smathers Library Zora Neale Hurston Collection Finding Guide
    • University of Florida Digital Collections Archive
    • University of Florida Zora Neale Hurston Exhibit Website
  • Yale University
    • Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Zora Neale Hurston Collection
  • Zora Neale Hurston Trust official website.
  • Voices from the Gaps biography – University of Minnesota
  • Zora Neale Hurston from the Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography
  • Works by Zora Neale Hurston at Project Gutenberg
  • Zora Neale Hurston Trust, operated by Lucy Anne Hurston (Zora Neale Hurston's niece) and Lois Hurston Gaston (Zora Neale Hurston's great niece, who represents the remaining heirs)
  • Zora Neale Hurston at the Internet Movie Database
  • Zora Neale Hurston at Women Film Pioneers Project
  • Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities (ZORA! Festival)
  • The Zora Neale Hurston Plays at the Library of Congress
  • Zora Neale Hurston biography, quotes, family, multimedia
  • Works by Zora Neale Hurston at Open Library
  • Langston Hughes & Zora Neale Hurston at C-SPAN's American Writers: A Journey Through History
  • Zora Neale Hurston's The Conscience of the Court at The Saturday Evening Post
  • Zora Neale Hurston at Find a Grave
  • Zora Neale Hurston at Library of Congress Authorities, with 67 catalog records

External links

  • Abcarian, Richard and Marvin Klotz. "Zora Neale Hurston." In Literature: The Human Experience, 9th edition. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006, pp. 1562–3.
  • Baym, Nina (ed.), "Zora Neale Hurston." In The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 6th edition, Vol. D. New York, W. W. Norton & Co., 2003, pp. 1506–07.
  • Beito, David T. “Zora Neale Hurston," American Enterprise 6 (September/October 1995), pp. 61–3.
  • Beito, David T. and Beito, Linda Royster, "Isabel Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane, and Zora Neale Hurston on War, Race, the State, and Liberty". Independent Review 12 (Spring 2008).
  • Boyd, Valerie (2003). Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Scribner. ISBN 0-684-84230-0.
  • Ellis, C. Arthur. Zora Hurston And The Strange Case Of Ruby McCollum, 1st edition. Lutz, FL: Gadfly Publishing, 2009. ISBN 978-0-9820940-0-6.
  • Hemenway, Robert E. Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography. Urbana, Ill: University of Illinois Press, 1977. ISBN 0-252-00807-3.
  • Hemenway, Robert E. "Zora Neale Hurston." In Paul Lauter and Richard Yarborough (eds.), The Heath Anthology of American Literature, 5th edition, Vol. D. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006, pp. 1577–78.
  • Jones, Sharon L. A Critical Companion to Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Reference to her Life and Work (New York: Facts on File, 2009).
  • Kaplan, Carla (ed.). Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters. New York: Random House, 2003.
  • Kraut, Anthea, "Between Primitivism and Diaspora: The Dance Performances of Josephine Baker, Zora Neale Hurston, and Katherine Dunham", Theatre Journal 55 (2003), pp. 433–50.
  • Menefee, Samuel Pyeatt, "Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960)." In Hilda Ellis Davidson and Carmen Blacker (eds.), Women and Tradition: A Neglected Group of Folklorists, Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2000, pp. 157–72.
  • Tucker, Cynthia. "Zora! Celebrated Storyteller Would Have Laughed at Controversy Over Her Origins. She Was Born In Notasulga, Alabama but Eatonville Fla., Claims Her As Its Own"; article documents Kristy Andersen's research into Hurston's birthplace; Atlanta Journal and Constitution, January 22, 1995.
  • Visweswaran, Kamala. Fictions of Feminist Ethnography. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994. ISBN 0-8166-2336-8
  • Walker, Alice. "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston", Ms. Magazine (March 1975), pp. 74–79, 84–89.


  1. ^ Boyd, Valerie (2003). Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Scribner. p. 17.  
  2. ^ Hurston, Lucy Anne (2004). Speak, So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Doubleday. p. 5.  
  3. ^ Boyd, Valerie (2003). Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Scribner. pp. 14–17, 439–440.  
  4. ^ Hurston, Lucy Anne (2004). Speak, So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Doubleday. p. 8.  
  5. ^ Boyd, Rainbows, p. 25.
  6. ^ Sharon L. Jones, A Critical Companion to Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Reference to her Life and Work (New York: Facts on File, 2009), pp. 3–4
  7. ^ Boyd, Rainbows, p. 52.
  8. ^ a b Zora Neale Hurston, Zora Neale Hurston official website, maintained by the Zora Neale Hurston Estate and Harper Collins.
  9. ^ Zora Neale Hurston, Women in History.
  10. ^ Shivonne Foster, Following Footsteps: Zora Neale Hurston, The Hilltop, November 20, 2007.
  11. ^ Jones, Critical Companion, p. 4.
  12. ^ Meyer, Annie Nathan (1951). It's Been Fun: An Autobiography. New York: H. Schuman. 
  13. ^ a b c Cheryl A. Wall,, William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris (eds), The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature. Oxford University Press, 2001. Oxford Reference Online.
  14. ^ A Century of Barnard Anthropology, The Early Period
  15. ^ a b c Encyclopædia Britannica Online, Hurston, Zora Neale, February 18, 2009.
  16. ^ Scott, Megan K. (March 6, 2011). "Hurston's real home".  
  17. ^ "Mule Bone: Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston's Dream Deferred of an African-American Theatre of the Black Word", African American Review, 22 March 2001. Accessed 5 March 2011. "In February 1930, Hurston headed north, settling in Westfield, New Jersey. Godmother Mason (Mrs. Rufus Osgood Mason, their white protector) had selected Westfield, safely removed from the distractions of New York City, as a suitable place for both Hurston and Hughes to work."
  18. ^ Horner, Shirley. "About Books", The New York Times, February 16, 1986. Accessed March 5, 2011. "Dr. Lewis said that his research 'points out that, thanks to Mrs. Mason's generosity, Hughes lived in the early 1930s in a one-family house in Westfield, where his neighbor was another of Harlem's luminaries, Zora Neale Hurston.'"
  19. ^ Porter, Jump at de Sun: The Story of Zora Neale Hurston, p. 66.
  20. ^ Biographical Timeline, Zora Neale Hurston official website.
  21. ^ Boyd, Rainbows, p. 157.
  22. ^ Boyd, Rainbows, pp. 246–47.
  23. ^ Boyd, Rainbows, pp. 375–87.
  24. ^ a b c d Dr. C. Arthur Ellis, "New Florida-based Movie on Ruby McCollum Story Underscores Need for Black History Month", PR Web, 5 January 2011, accessed 18 March 2014
  25. ^ Hurston, Zora Neale. Series of articles covering the trial: Pittsburgh Courier, October 1952-January 1953. Also, "The Life Story Of Ruby McCollum", Pittsburgh Courier, Jan-March 1953
  26. ^ The Silencing of Ruby McCollum: Race, Class, and Gender in the SouthElizabeth Boyd, "Disquiet", Review of Tammy Evans, , H-Net Review, July 2008, accessed 18 March 2014
  27. ^ Brotemarkle, Ben (February 4, 2014). "Zora Neale Hurston fond of writing in Eau Gallie cottage". Florida Today (Melbourne, Florida). pp. 9A. Retrieved February 4, 2014. 
  28. ^ "Charlotte Hunt, renewed interest in author Hurston," Tallahassee Democrat, 25 March 25, 1997
  29. ^ Richard A. Long, "New Negro, The", in William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris (eds), The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature. Oxford University Press, 2001. Oxford Reference Online.
  30. ^ Brotemarkle, Ben (Fall–Winter 2011). Indian River Journal. Brevard Historical Commission. 
  31. ^ Chuck Jackson, "Waste and Whiteness: Zora Neale Hurston and the Politics of Eugenics", African American Review, 2000, 34(4): 639–660.
  32. ^ Richard Wright, "Between Laughter and Tears", The New Masses, October 5, 1937.
  33. ^ Liz Colville, "Happy Birthday, Richard Wright, Groundbreaking Author of 'Black Boy' and 'Native Son'", Finding Dulcinea, September 4, 2010.
  34. ^ Ward, Jerry Washington Ward and Robert Butler, eds. "Zora Neale Hurston." The Richard Wright encyclopedia. Greenwood Press. 2008.
  35. ^ . February 13, 2010, p. 22.WORLD magazineOlasky, Marvin, "History turned right side up".
  36. ^ "Zora Dust Tracks Heritage Marker 4". Dust Tracks Heritage Trail. St. Lucie County Online. Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  37. ^ Grosvenor, Vertamae (26 April 2004). "Intersections: Crafting a Voice for Black Culture". National Public Radio. Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  38. ^ "Archaeology of a Classic: Celebrating Zora Neale Hurston '28". News & Events. Barnard College. December 12, 2012. Retrieved June 14, 2014. 
  39. ^ Graham, Adam (31 March 2010). "Forgotten Florida, Through a Writer’s Eyes". New York Times. Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  40. ^ Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.
  41. ^ "Conference Celebrates Legacy of Zora Neale Hurston". Barnard News Center (Barnard College). Archived from the original on 4 June 2004. Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  42. ^ Walker, Alice. "Finding a World that I Thought Was Lost: Zora Neale Hurston and the People She Looked at Very Hard and Loved Very Much". S&F Online. Barnard College. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  43. ^ Anika Myers Palm (January 7, 2014). "Google doodle honors Eatonville's Zora Neale Hurston". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  44. ^ Kerr, Dara (7 Jan 2014). "Google bestows author Zora Neale Hurston her own doodle". CNET. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  45. ^ McWhorter, John, “Thus Spake Zora", City Journal, Summer 2009.
  46. ^ a b McWhorter, John (2011-01-04) Why Zora Neale Hurston Was a Conservative, The Root
  47. ^ a b David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, “Isabel Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane, and Zora Neale Hurston on War, Race, the State, and Liberty", Independent Review 12, Spring 2008.
  48. ^ Freedom From Religion Foundation "Zora Neale Hurston - Freedom From Religion Foundation"
  49. ^ "Seeing the World As It Is," a chapter deleted at the insistence of the original publishers of Hurston's memoir Dust Tracks on a Road, but later included in the Library of America edition edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  50. ^ Zora Neale Hurston, "Court Order Can't Make the Races Mix", Orlando Sentinel, August 11, 1955.
  51. ^ Reproduction of Hurston's Letter
  52. ^ Turner, In Minor Chord: Three African American Writers, 1971.
  53. ^ H. I. Brock, New York Times Book Review.
  54. ^ 43 (1936).
  55. ^ B. C. McNeil, Journal of Negro History 21(1936) 225.
  56. ^ Jeffrey Anderson, "Voodoo" in Black and White, in Frank & Killbride (eds), Southern Character, 2011.
  57. ^ Robet Hemenway, "Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography, pp. 73-78, 96-99.
  58. ^ Carolyn Morrow Long, Spiritual Merchants, p. 123; see also Anderson
  59. ^ , PBSZora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun.
  60. ^ Jones, Sharon Lynette (2009). Critical Companion to Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Reference to Her Life and Work.  



  • Valerie Boyd, Wrapped in Rainbows
  • Robert Hemenway, Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography
  • Lucy Anne Hurston, Speak So You Can Speak Again (by her niece)
  • Sharon Lynette Jones, Critical Companion to Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Reference to Her Life and Work (2009)[60]
  • Virginia Lynn Moylan, Zora Neale Hurston's Final Decade
  • Deborah G. Plant, Zora Neale Hurston: A Biography of the Spirit

Further reading

See also

  • In 1989 PBS aired a drama based on Hurston's life entitled Zora is My Name!
  • The 2004 film Brother to Brother, set in part during the Harlem Renaissance, featured Hurston (portrayed by Aunjanue Ellis).
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God was adapted for a 2005 film of the same title by Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions, with a teleplay by Suzan-Lori Parks. The film starred Halle Berry as Janie Starks.
  • On April 9, 2008, PBS broadcast a 90-minute documentary, Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun, written and produced by filmmaker Kristy Andersen, as part of the American Masters series.[59]
  • In 2009, Hurston was featured in a 90-minute documentary about the WPA Writers' Project titled Soul of a People: Writing America's Story, which premiered on the Smithsonian Channel. Her work in Florida during the 1930s is highlighted in the companion book, Soul of a People: The WPA Writers' Project Uncovers Depression America.

Film and television

  • "Journey's End" (Negro World, 1922), poetry
  • "Night" (Negro World, 1922), poetry
  • "Passion" (Negro World, 1922), poetry
  • Color Struck (Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life, 1925), play
  • "Sweat" (1926), short story
  • "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" (1928), essay
  • "Hoodoo in America" (1931) in The Journal of American Folklore
  • "The Gilded Six-Bits" (1933), short story
  • Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934), novel
  • Mules and Men (1935), non-fiction
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), novel
  • Tell My Horse (1938), non-fiction
  • Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939), novel
  • Dust Tracks on a Road (1942), autobiography
  • Seraph on the Suwanee (1948), novel
  • "What White Publishers Won't Print" (Negro Digest, 1950)
  • I Love Myself When I Am Laughing...and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader (Alice Walker, ed.) (1979)
  • The Sanctified Church (1981)
  • Spunk: Selected Stories (1985)
  • Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) (1991)
  • The Complete Stories (introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sieglinde Lemke) (1995)
  • Novels & Stories: Jonah's Gourd Vine, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Moses, Man of the Mountain, Seraph on the Suwanee, Selected Stories (Cheryl A. Wall, ed.) (Library of America, 1995) ISBN 978-0-940450-83-7
  • Folklore, Memoirs, & Other Writings: Mules and Men, Tell My Horse, Dust Tracks on a Road, Selected Articles (Cheryl A. Wall, ed.) (Library of America, 1995) ISBN 978-0-940450-84-4
  • Barracoon (1999)
  • Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk-tales from the Gulf States (2001)
  • Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, collected and edited by Carla Kaplan (2003)
  • Collected Plays (2008)

Selected bibliography

Several authors have observed that Hurston engaged in significant plagiarism in at least three works. Her article "Cudjo's own story of the last African slaver" was only 25% original, the rest being plagiarized.[57] Hurston also plagiarized much of her work on voodoo.[58]

Jeffrey Anderson states that Hurston's research methods were questionable, and that she fabricated material for her works on voodoo. He observed that she admitted inventing dialogue for her book Mules and Men in a letter to Ruth Benedict. She described fabricating the Mules and Men story of rival voodoo doctors as a child in her later autobiography. Anderson observes that many of Hurston's other claims in her voodoo writings are dubious as well.[56]

Other authors criticized Hurston for her sensationalist representation of voodoo.[53] In The Crisis, Harold Preece criticized Hurston for her perpetuation of "Negro primitivism" in order to advance her own literary career.[54] The Journal of Negro History complained that her work on voodoo was an indictment of African American ignorance and supersition.[55]

Darwin Turner, one of Hurston's biographers, faulted her for racism for opposing integration, and for opposing programs to guarantee blacks the right to work.[52]

Criticism and plagiarism

If I say a whole system must be upset for me to win, I am saying that I cannot sit in the game, and that safer rules must be made to give me a chance. I repudiate that. If others are in there, deal me a hand and let me see what I can make of it, even though I know some in there are dealing from the bottom and cheating like hell in other ways.[46]

Hurston opposed the Supreme Court ruling in the Brown v. Board of Education case of 1954. She felt that if separate schools were truly equal (and she believed that they were rapidly becoming so), educating black students in physical proximity to white students would not result in better education. In addition, she worried about the demise of black schools and black teachers as a way to pass on cultural tradition to future generations of African Americans. She voiced this opposition in a letter, "Court Order Can't Make the Races Mix", that was published in the Orlando Sentinel in August 1955. Hurston had not reversed her long-time opposition to segregation. Rather, she feared that the Court's ruling could become a precedent for an all-powerful federal government to undermine individual liberty on a broad range of issues in the future.[50][51] Hurston also opposed preferential treatment for African-Americans, saying:

In 1952, Hurston supported the presidential campaign of Senator Robert A. Taft. Like Taft, Hurston was against Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies. She also shared his opposition to Roosevelt and Truman's interventionist foreign policy. In the original draft of her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, Hurston compared the United States government to a "fence" in stolen goods and to a Mafia-like protection racket. Hurston thought it ironic that the same “people who claim that it is a noble thing to die for freedom and democracy ... wax frothy if anyone points out the inconsistency of their morals.... We, too, consider machine gun bullets good laxatives for heathens who get constipated with toxic ideas about a country of their own.” She was scathing about those who sought "freedoms" for those abroad but denied it to people in their home countries: Roosevelt "can call names across an ocean" for his Four Freedoms, but he did not have “the courage to speak even softly at home.”[49] When Truman dropped the atomic bombs on Japan she called him “the Butcher of Asia.”[47]

Prayer seems to me a cry of weakness, and an attempt to avoid, by trickery, the rules of the game as laid down. I do not choose to admit weakness. I accept the challenge of responsibility. Life, as it is, does not frighten me, since I have made my peace with the universe as I find it, and bow to its laws. The ever-sleepless sea in its bed, crying out “how long?” to Time; million-formed and never motionless flame; the contemplation of these two aspects alone, affords me sufficient food for ten spans of my expected lifetime. It seems to me that organized creeds are collections of words around a wish. I feel no need for such. However, I would not, by word or deed, attempt to deprive another of the consolation it affords. It is simply not for me. Somebody else may have my rapturous glance at the archangels. The springing of the yellow line of morning out of the misty deep of dawn, is glory enough for me. I know that nothing is destructible; things merely change forms. When the consciousness we know as life ceases, I know that I shall still be part and parcel of the world. I was a part before the sun rolled into shape and burst forth in the glory of change. I was, when the earth was hurled out from its fiery rim. I shall return with the earth to Father Sun, and still exist in substance when the sun has lost its fire, and disintegrated into infinity to perhaps become a part of the whirling rubble of space. Why fear? The stuff of my being is matter, ever changing, ever moving, but never lost; so what need of denominations and creeds to deny myself the comfort of all my fellow men? The wide belt of the universe has no need for finger-rings. I am one with the infinite and need no other assurance.[48]

John McWhorter has called Hurston "America's favorite black conservative"[45][46] while David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito have argued that she can better be characterized as a "libertarian." She was a Republican who was generally sympathetic to the foreign policy non-interventionism of the Old Right and a fan of Booker T. Washington's self-help politics. She disagreed with the philosophies (including Communism and the New Deal) supported by many of her colleagues in the Harlem Renaissance, such as Langston Hughes, who was in the 1930s a supporter of the Soviet Union and praised it in several of his poems. Despite much common ground with the Old Right in domestic and foreign policy, Hurston was not a social conservative. Her writings show an affinity for feminist individualism. In this respect, her views were similar to two libertarian novelists who were her contemporaries: Rose Wilder Lane and Isabel Paterson.[47] Although her personal quotes show a disbelief of religion, Hurston did not negate spiritual matters as evidenced from her 1942 autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road.


  • On January 7, 2014, the 123rd anniversary of Hurston's birthday was commemorated by a Google Doodle.[43][44]
  • Barnard College dedicated its 2003 Virginia C. Gildersleeve Conference to Hurston. "Jumpin’ at the Sun: Reassessing the Life and Work of Zora Neale Hurston" focused on her work and influence.[41] Alice Walker's Gildersleeve lecture detailed her work on discovering and publicizing Hurston's legacy.[42]
  • [39]
Zora Neale Hurston, photo by Carl Van Vechten (1938)
  • Author Alice Walker sought Hurston's grave in 1973 and planted a grave marker calling her "A Genius of the South."[36][37] Walker then published "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston" in the March 1975 issue of Ms. magazine, reviving interest in Hurston's work.[38] The renewal of attention to Hurston was related also to the rise of new African-American authors such as Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Walker, whose works are centered on African-American experiences and include, but do not necessarily focus upon, racial struggle.
  • Zora Neale Hurston's hometown of Eatonville, Florida, celebrates her life in an annual festival and is home to the Zora Neale Hurston Museum of Fine Arts, named in her honor. Her life and legacy are celebrated every year here at the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities.

Posthumous recognition

During the 1930s and 1940s when her work was published, the pre-eminent African-American author was Richard Wright.[33] Unlike Hurston, Wright wrote in explicitly political terms, as someone who had become disenchanted with communism, using the struggle of African Americans for respect and economic advancement as both the setting and the motivation for his work. Other popular African-American authors of the time, such as Ralph Ellison, dealt with the same concerns as Wright. Hurston's work, which did not engage these political issues, did not fit in with this struggle.[34] In 1951, for example, Hurston argued that New Deal economic support created a harmful dependency by African Americans on the government, and that this dependency ceded too much power to politicians.[35]

More recently, many critics have praised Hurston's skillful use of idiomatic speech.

... The sensory sweep of her novel carries no theme, no message, no thought. In the main, her novel is not addressed to the Negro, but to a white audience whose chauvinistic tastes she knows how to satisfy. She exploits that phase of Negro life which is "quaint," the phase which evokes a piteous smile on the lips of the "superior" race.[32]

Several of Hurston's literary contemporaries criticized Hurston's use of dialect as a caricature of African-American culture rooted in a racist tradition. In particular, a number of writers associated with the Harlem Renaissance were critical of Hurston's later writings, on the basis that they did not agree with or further the position of the overall movement. One particular criticism came from Richard Wright in his review of Their Eyes Were Watching God:

"Dat's a big ole resurrection lie, Ned. Uh slew-foot, drag-leg lie at dat, and Ah dare yuh tuh hit me too. You know Ahm uh fightin' dawg and mah hide is worth money. Hit me if you dare! Ah'll wash yo' tub uh 'gator guts and dat quick."

Many readers objected to the representation of African-American dialect in Hurston's novels, given the racially charged history of dialect fiction in American literature. Her stylistic choices in terms of dialogue were influenced by her academic experiences. Thinking like a folklorist, Hurston strove to represent speech patterns of the period which she documented through ethnographic research. For example, a character in Jonah's Gourd Vine expresses herself in this manner:

Hurston's work slid into obscurity for decades, for a number of cultural and political reasons.

Public obscurity

In 1952, Hurston was assigned by the Pittsburgh Courier to cover the small-town murder trial of Ruby McCollum, the prosperous black wife of the local bolita racketeer, who had killed a racist white doctor. She also contributed to Woman in the Suwannee County Jail, a book by journalist and civil rights advocate William Bradford Huie. In 2008, The Library of America selected excerpts from this work for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime writing.

In the 1940s, Hurston's work was published in such periodicals as The American Mercury and The Saturday Evening Post. Her last published novel, Seraph on the Suwanee, notable principally for its focus on white characters, was published in 1948. It explores images of "white trash" women. Jackson (2000) argues that Hurston's meditation on abjection, waste, and the construction of class and gender identities among poor whites reflects the eugenics discourses of the 1920s.[31]

1940s and 1950s

Hurston's first three novels were published in the 1930s: Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934); Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), written during her fieldwork in Haiti and considered her masterwork; and Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939).

In 1937, Hurston was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship to conduct ethnographic research in Jamaica and Haiti. Tell My Horse (1938) documents her account of her fieldwork studying spiritual and cultural rituals in Jamaica and vodoun in Haiti. Hurston also translated her anthropological work into the performing arts, and her folk revue, The Great Day, premiered at the John Golden Theatre in New York in 1932.

By the mid-1930s, Hurston had published several short stories and the critically acclaimed Mules and Men (1935), a groundbreaking work of "literary anthropology" documenting African-American folklore from timber camps in North Florida. In 1930, she collaborated with Langston Hughes on Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life in Three Acts, a play that they never finished. It was published posthumously in 1991.[15]


When Hurston arrived in New York City in 1925, the Harlem Renaissance was at its peak, and she soon became one of the writers at its center. Shortly before she entered Barnard, Hurston's short story “Spunk” was selected for The New Negro, a landmark anthology of fiction, poetry, and essays focusing on African and African-American art and literature.[29] In 1926, a group of young black writers including Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Wallace Thurman, calling themselves the Niggerati, produced a literary magazine called Fire!! that featured many of the young artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance. In 1929, Hurston moved to Eau Gallie in Florida where she wrote Mules and Men, which was later published in 1935.[30]


Literary career

After Hurston died on January 28, 1960 in a Fort Pierce, Florida, hospital, her papers were ordered to be burned. A law officer and friend, Patrick DuVal, passing by the house where she had lived, stopped and put out the fire, thus saving an invaluable collection of literary documents for posterity. The nucleus of this collection was given to the University of Florida libraries in 1961 by Mrs. Marjorie Silver, friend and neighbor of Hurston. Other materials were donated in 1970 and 1971 by Frances Grover, daughter of E. O. Grover, a Rollins College professor and long-time friend of Hurston's. In 1979 Stetson Kennedy of Jacksonville, who knew Hurston through his work with the Federal Writers Project, added additional papers. [(Zora Neal Hurston Papers, University of Florida Smathers Libraries, August 2008)]

During a period of financial and medical difficulties, Hurston was forced to enter St. Lucie County Welfare Home, where she suffered a stroke. She died of hypertensive heart disease on January 28, 1960, and was buried at the Garden of Heavenly Rest in Fort Pierce, Florida. Her remains were in an unmarked grave until 1973. Novelist Alice Walker and literary scholar Charlotte Hunt found an unmarked grave in the general area where Hurston had been buried, and decided to mark it as hers.[28]


She moved to Fort Pierce. Taking jobs where she could find them, she worked as a substitute teacher and as a maid.

Among other positions, Hurston later worked at the Pan American World Airways Technical Library at Patrick Air Force Base in 1957. She was fired for being "too well-educated" for her job.[27]

Unable to pay independently to return for the appeal and second trial, she contacted journalist William Bradford Huie, with whom she had worked at The American Mercury, to try to interest him in the case. He covered the appeal and second trial, and also developed material from a background investigation. Hurston shared her material with him from the first trial, but he acknowledged her only briefly in his book, Ruby McCollum: Woman in the Suwannee Jail (1956), which became a bestseller.[26] Hurston celebrated that "McCollum’s testimony in her own defense marked the first time that a woman of African-American descent was allowed to testify as to the paternity of her child by a white man. Hurston firmly believed that Ruby McCollum’s testimony sounded the death toll of 'paramour rights' in the Segregationist South."[24]

Upon reaching Live Oak, Hurston was surprised not only by the gag order the judge in the trial placed on the defense, but by her inability to get residents in town to talk about the case; both blacks and whites were silent. She believed that might have been related to Dr. Adams' alleged involvement as well in Sam McCollum's gambling operation. Her articles were published by the newspaper during the trial. Ruby McCollum was convicted by an all-white, all-male jury, and sentenced to death. Hurston had a special assignment to write a serialized account, The Life Story of Ruby McCollum, over three months in 1953 in the newspaper.[25] Her part was ended abruptly when she and Nunn disagreed about her pay, and she left.[24]

During her last decade, Hurston worked as a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers. In the fall of 1952 she was contacted by Sam Nunn, editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, to go to Florida to cover the murder trial of Ruby McCollum. The wealthy black married woman was charged with murdering a prominent white doctor and politician, also married, whom McCollum said had forced her to have sex and bear his child.[24] Hurston recalled what she had seen of white male sexual dominance in the lumber camps in North Florida, and discussed it with Nunn. They both thought the case might be about such "paramour rights," and wanted to "expose it to a national audience."[24]

In 1948, Hurston was falsely accused of molesting a ten-year-old boy. Although the case was dismissed after Hurston presented evidence that she was in Honduras when the crime supposedly occurred in the U.S., her personal life was seriously disrupted by the scandal.[13]

Later years

From October 1947 to February 1948, she lived in Honduras, at the north coastal town of Puerto Cortés. She had some hopes of locating either Mayan ruins or vestiges of an as yet undiscovered civilization.[23] While in Puerto Cortés, she wrote much of Seraph on the Suwanee, set in Florida. Hurston expressed interest in the polyethnic nature of the population in the region (many, such as the Miskito Zambu and Garifuna, were of partial African ancestry and had developed creole cultures).

In 1936 and 1937, Hurston traveled to Jamaica and Haiti for research, with support from the Guggenheim Foundation. She drew from this for her anthropological work, Tell My Horse (1938).

Hurston traveled extensively in the Caribbean and the American South and immersed herself in local cultural practices to conduct her anthropological research. Based on her work in the South, sponsored from 1928 to 1932 by Charlotte Osgood Mason,[21] a wealthy philanthropist, Hurston wrote Mules and Men in 1935. She was doing research in lumber camps and commented on the practice of white men in power taking black women as sexual concubines, including having them bear children. This later was referred to as "paramour rights," based in the men's power under racial and related to practices during slavery times. The book also includes much folklore. She used this material as well in fictional treatment developed for her novels such as Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934).[22]

Anthropological and folkloric fieldwork

In 1956 Hurston received the Bethune-Cookman College Award for Education and Human Relations in recognition of her achievements. The English Department at Bethune-Cookman College remains dedicated to preserving her cultural legacy.[20]

Legacy and honors

In later life, in addition to continuing her literary career, Hurston served on the faculty of North Carolina College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University) in Durham, North Carolina.[15]

She lived in a cottage in Eau Gallie, Florida, twice: once in 1929 and again in 1951.[16] During the 1930s, Hurston was a resident of Westfield, New Jersey, where Langston Hughes was among her neighbors.[17][18] In 1934 she established a school of dramatic arts "based on pure Negro expression" at Bethune-Cookman University (at the time, Bethune-Cookman College), a historically black college in Daytona Beach, Florida.[19]

In 1927, Hurston married Herbert Sheen, a jazz musician and former classmate at Howard who later became a physician. Their marriage ended in 1931. In 1939, while Hurston was working for the WPA, she married Albert Price, who was 25 years younger than she; this marriage ended after only seven months.[13]


In 1918, Hurston began undergraduate studies at Howard University, where she became one of the earliest initiates of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and co-founded The Hilltop, the university's student newspaper.[10] While there, she took courses in Spanish, English, Greek and public speaking and earned an associate's degree in 1920.[11] In 1921, she wrote a short story, John Redding Goes to Sea, which qualified her to become a member of Alaine Locke's literary club, The Stylus. Hurston left Howard in 1924 and in 1925 was offered a scholarship by Barnard trustee Annie Nathan Meyer[12] to Barnard College, Columbia University, where she was the college's sole black student.[13] Hurston received her B.A. in anthropology in 1928, when she was 37. While she was at Barnard, she conducted ethnographic research with noted anthropologist Franz Boas of Columbia University. She also worked with Ruth Benedict as well as fellow anthropology student Margaret Mead.[14] After graduating from Barnard, Hurston spent two years as a graduate student in anthropology at Columbia University.[15]



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