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Zora Neale. Picture for US Postal Stamp, 2003. Hurston. Early Life. 1891 – 1960 I “grew like a gourd and yelled bass like a gator.” Notasulga, Alabama Eatonville, Florida Father: carpenter, preacher, mayor Mother: died 1904 “jump at the sun.”. Out in the World.

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Zora Neale

Picture for US Postal Stamp, 2003


Early life
Early Life

  • 1891 – 1960

  • I “grew like a gourd

    and yelled bass like a gator.”

  • Notasulga, Alabama

  • Eatonville, Florida

  • Father: carpenter, preacher, mayor

  • Mother: died 1904 “jump at the sun.”

Out in the world
Out in the World

  • At 13: taken out of school

  • At 16: traveling theater company

Education and career
Education and Career

  • Howard University (1920)

  • Harlem Renaissance

  • 1927: founded Fire!

  • Barnard College

  • Columbia University

  • Anthropology and Folklore

  • Teacher, librarian, and domestic

Work for benefactor
Work for Benefactor

  • Mrs. R. Osgood Mason of Park Ave. New York

  • Monthly allowance for 5 years to collect folklore of the South

  • Criticized for flattering letters

Other works
Other Works

  • Jonah’s Gourd Vine, 1934 [1991]

  • Mules and Men, 1935

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God 1937

  • Tell My Horse, 1938

  • Moses, Man of the Mountain, 1939

  • Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942

  • Seraph on the Suwanee, 1948

Early critical reception of their eyes were watching god
Early Critical Reception of Their Eyes Were Watching God

  • Sterling Brown: It does not “depict the harsher side of black life in the South”

  • Richard Wright: It “carries no theme, no message, no thought,” but is like a minstrel show.

  • Benjamin Brawley: “Her interest . . . Is not in solving problems, the chief concern being with individuals.”

Richard Wright

Affirmative view of african american culture
Affirmative View of African American Culture

  • But I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow damned up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are hurt about it. . . . No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.

    --“How It Feels to Be Colored Me”

  • Politically conservative in 1950s.

  • Opposed 1954 Supreme Court desegregation decision

Last years
Last Years

  • Arrested in 1948

  • Solitary retirement in Florida

  • Died in a welfare home

  • Buried in an unmarked grave

  • A Genius of the South: 1901 [sic]---1960. Novelist, Folklorist, Anthropologist

Current critical issues
Current Critical Issues

  • Alice Walker: “There is no book

    more important to me.”

  • Female bonding  self-definition

  • Questions about “voice”

  • Role of folklore: magic of 3’s,

    tale of courtly love, symbols

    that aid in retelling


Crabtree, Claire. “The Confluence of Folklore, Feminism and Black Self-Determination in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.” The Southern Literary Journal, 17:2 (54-66)

Jordan, Jennifer. “Feminist Fantasies: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Tulsa Studies in Women&apos’s Literature. 7:1 (105-17).

Saunders, James Robert. “Womanism as the Key to Understanding Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.” The Hollins Critic. 25:4 (1-11).

Washington, Mary Helen. Foreword. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Perennial Classics, 1998.

----------. Introduction. I Love Myself When I Am Laughing. Alice Walker, Ed. New York: The Feminist Press, 1979.

Zora Neale Hurston. Biography. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Literature Resource Center, January 2003. <http://www.galenet.com>