Zora Neale Hurston “A Genius of The South” 1891 --- 1960 Novelist, Folklorist, Anthropologist Click here to view a popular Zora website.
Zora’s Youth • Born January 7 between 1891 & 1901 (often lied about her age) • Raised in Eatonville, FL – the first all-Black, self-governed town (her father was mayor) • Mother inspired her to “Jump at de Sun,” which became Zora’s motto in life • Loved to eavesdrop on the townsfolk telling their “lies” on the porch of Joe Clarke’s store
Zora’s Education • Attended boarding school after mother died early in Hurston’s life • Graduated from Morgan Academy High School • Majored in English at Howard University • Moved to Harlem to write • Studied Anthropology with Franz Boas at Barnard College
Zora’s Writing • Returned to the South to write—believed that was the only place to find authentic Black culture • Initially wrote under the patronage of a white woman, Charlotte Mason, but broke ties with her because she limited Zora’s creative freedom • Used folklore and dialect in her writing
Zora’s View on Race • “At certain time I have no race, I am me.” • “I am not tragically colored.” • “A feel most colored when I am thrown up against a sharp white background.” - from Huston’s essay, “How It Feels to Be Colored Me”
Their Eyes Were Watching God • Hurston’s most popular novel • Published in 1937 • First modern, feminist text written by an African American • Considered the last text of the Harlem Renaissance
Summary of Their Eyes… Set in Eatonville, the main character, Janie, struggles to gain her voice and identity despite being held back by the men in her life. After three marriages, the third to a younger man named Tea Cakes, she triumphs in her life mission without compromising her dignity as a woman.
Novels: Jonah’s Gourd Vine Mules and Men Tell My Horse Moses, Man of the Mountain Dust Tracks on a Road(autobiography) Seraph on the Suwanee “Spunk” Color Struck: A Play “Sweat” “The Gilded Six-Bits” “My Most Humiliating Jim Crow Experience” “Conscience of the Court” (negative reaction to Brown vs. Board of Education) Other Works By Hurston
Zora’s Death • Died penniless in 1960 • Unappreciated and criticized by authors such as W.E.B. DuBois and Richard Wright for not being “race conscious” enough and writing about folklore instead of using art as propaganda to further the Black race • Buried in an unmarked grave
The Rediscovery of Zora Neale Hurston • In 1973, Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple) revived some of Hurston’s work, later publishing it in two volumes: I Love Myself: When I Am Laughing… and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive and Spunk • Walker also put a headstone on Hurston’s grave, dubbing her “A Genius of the South”