Zora Neale Hurston

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Zora Neale Hurston
Born(1891-01-07)January 7, 1891
Notasulga, Alabama, United States
DiedJanuary 28, 1960(1960-01-28) (aged 69)
Fort Pierce, Florida, United States
OccupationFolklorist, anthropologist, novelist, short story writer
Notable worksTheir Eyes Were Watching God To Tell My Horse Jonah' Gourd Vine

Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891[1][2]–January 28, 1960) was an American folklorist, socio-cultural anthropologist, and author[3] focused on African American culture during the time of the Harlem Renaissance, best known for the 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Background[change | change source]

Zora Neale Hurston was born in Alabama to her parents who were freedmen or people who used to be enslaved.[4] When she was still a child, her family moved to Eatonville, Florida which was the first all-black town with its own local laws in the United States. After her mother died, Hurston worked to grow her education and later ended up in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance. This was an influential period in Hurston's life as she saw African Americans have more pride in their identity. The result of the Harlem Renaissance was a rise in the number of African Americans who could read and write, which made it easier for them to express themselves using art.[5]

Education[change | change source]

Zora Neale Hurston left New York City in 1921 to attend Howard University where she continued to explore African American culture and co-founded the school's newspaper The Hilltop.[3][6] In 1925, Hurston earned a scholarship to Barnard College where she studied anthropology with Franz Boas. Hurston then continued to learn at Columbia University where she got a graduate degree in anthropology.

Influences and Experiences[change | change source]

As mentioned above, Zora Neale Hurston studied anthropology under Franz Boas, who was known for his work in cultural relativism. This is the idea that each culture has their own beliefs and practices so they cannot be compared to one another. It was when she was working with Boas that Hurston began her field work in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance.

Hurston was encouraged by Boas to study the spread of African cultural practices and ideas. This is what led to her studies on African American folklore in the American south. Some of these trips to the South were funded by Charlotte Mason who was an American philanthropist who supported African Americans during the Harlem Renaissance.[3]

Hurston was also influenced by Fannie Hurst, who she worked for as an amanuensis, or an artistic writing assistant.[7] During this time, Hurston aided her with the writing of manuscripts and gathered information about regular people.

Contribution to Anthropology[change | change source]

Like her influences, Zora Neale Hurston sought to capture and preserve cultures as they were in real life. Hurston wrote about many cultures including Haiti and Jamaica,[8] but most of her writings were about African American culture. Hurston wanted to preserve the perspective, narrative, and dialect of African American populations while fighting stereotypes through her writings.[9] Hurston's work as a socio-cultural anthropologist is so valued because she herself was an African American woman, and she used plays, books, and collections of folktales.

Critiques[change | change source]

Zora Neale Hurston's unique writing style she used to preserve rural African American dialects set her apart from other anthropologists, but not everyone thought that was a good thing. Hurston's main critics were other African Americans who saw her portrayal of rural African Americans as a setback and they felt that she made African Americans sound uneducated.

Accomplishments[change | change source]

As mentioned, early in her academic career, Zora Neale Hurston was the co-founder of The Hilltop, which is currently the oldest African American collegiate newspaper in the United States.[10] After getting her Master's degree, Hurston went on to become a drama teacher at North Carolina Collee for Negros, now known as North Carolina Central University. Hurston had published multiple fictional writings, plays, and books during her career. She was also an employee at the library of congress.

Selected Bibliography[change | change source]

  • Color Struck (1925) in Opportunity Magazine
  • Sweat (1926)
  • How It Feels to Be Colored Me (1928)
  • Hoodoo in America (1931) in The Journal of American Folklore
  • The Gilded Six-Bits (1933)
  • Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934)
  • Mules and Men (1935)
  • Tell My Horse (1937)
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
  • Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939)
  • Dust Tracks on a Road (1942)
  • Seraph on the Suwanee (1948)
  • I Love Myself When I Am Laughing...and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader (edited by Alice Walker; introduction by Mary Helen Washington) (1979)
  • Sanctified Church (1981)
  • Spunk: Selected Stories (1985)
  • Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life (play, with Langston Hughes; edited with introductions by George Houston Bass and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and the complete story of the Mule bone controversy.) (1991)
  • The Complete Stories (introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sieglinde Lemke) (1995)
  • Every Tongue Got to Confess (2001)
  • Barracoon (2019)

References[change | change source]

  1. Boyd, Valerie (2003). Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Scribner. p. 17. ISBN 0-684-84230-0.
  2. Hurston, Lucy Anne (2004). Speak, So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Doubleday. p. 5. ISBN 0-385-49375-4.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Zora Neale Hurston | Biography, Books, Short Stories, & Facts | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2022-12-02.
  4. "Biography: Zora Neale Hurston". National Women's History Museum. Retrieved 2022-12-02.
  5. "Harlem Renaissance | Definition, Artists, Writers, Poems, Literature, & Facts | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2022-12-02.
  6. "About – The Hilltop". Retrieved 2022-12-02.
  7. "Fannie Hurst | American writer | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2022-12-02.
  8. Trefzer, Annette (2000). "Possessing the Self: Caribbean Identities in Zora Neale Hurston's Tell My Horse". African American Review. 34 (2): 299–312. doi:10.2307/2901255. ISSN 1062-4783. JSTOR 2901255.
  9. Neale., Hurston, Zora (2019). Barracoon: The Story of the Last Slave. HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 978-0-00-836803-6. OCLC 1243492891.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. "About – The Hilltop". Retrieved 2022-12-02.