Authors: Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston, born in Eatonville, Florida, was a noted novelist, folklorist and anthropologist who traveled throughout Florida collecting and writing stories of rural people. She was a major figure of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920's and was part of the Federal Writers' Project in Florida in 1938. A recipient of Guggenheim and Rosenwald fellowships, Zora Neale Hurston's most prominent works include Mules and Men, Dust Tracks in the Road, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. Eatonville annually holds the Zora Neale Hurston Festival, a tribute to Hurston’s lasting literary accomplishments.
Zora Hurston was the fifth of eight children of John and Lucy Ann Hurston. Her father was a Baptist preacher, tenant farmer, and carpenter, and her mother was a school teacher. Zora Neale Hurston was born somewhere between 1891-1901. Because throughout her life she was dishonest about her age no one is quite sure of her year of birth. She was born in the town of Eatonville, Florida. Eatonville is five miles from Orlando. It was an all African American town and was not a ghetto or a slum. Eatonville was the first all black community to be incorporated. In childhood Hurston grew up uneducated and poor, but she was immersed with black folk life. She had little experience with racism early on since the town was all one race. This caused her to have unconventional attitudes later in life which alienated her from others.
Her father later became mayor of the town, which Hurston would glorify in her stories as a place black Americans could live as they desired, independent of white society. Hurston spent the remainder of her childhood in Eatonville, and describes the experience of growing up in Eatonville in her 1928 essay "How It Feels to Be Colored Me". Zora's mother died when she was nine years old, and her father soon remarried. After her relationship with her stepmother rapidly declined, her father sent her to school in Jacksonville, Florida. Hurston greatly missed her mother and the warm, loving family atmosphere that she had grown up in. Hurston found herself being passed from relative to relative, while working as a nanny and a housekeeper.
In 1918, Zora 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. Hurston left Howard in 1924 and in 1925 was offered a scholarship to Barnard College where she was the college's sole black student. Hurston received her B.A. in anthropology in 1927, when she was 36. While Zora Hurston 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. After graduating from Barnard, Hurston spent two years as a graduate student in anthropology at Columbia University.
Zora 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. In 1926, a group of young black writers
including Zora Hurston,
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.