Zora Neale Hurston

(January 7th, 1891 — January 28th, 1960)

Zora Neale Hurston was an American author, anthropologist, filmmaker, and playwright. She was an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance whose work fell out of favour for many years due to criticism from contemporary literati.

Hurston was born in a small town in Alabama, where her father was a preacher and a sharecropper. The family soon moved to Eatonville, Florida — one of the first all-Black towns in the United States. Her experiences living in that town shaped the themes and settings of her writing as well as her ideas about race.

After her parents stopped paying tuition for her boarding school, Hurston began to work for a living. She completed high school at the age of 26 and enrolled in university where she studied under many well-known scholars and began her literary career. At 37, she graduated with a BA in anthropology.

During the 1920s, she lived in Harlem, New York and was part of the Harlem Renaissance. She had a friendship with Langston Hughes that fell apart after an attempt at writing a play together.

Hurston worked from the 30s to the end of her life as a folklorist, anthropologist, and freelance writer. Her writing career was damaged by strong criticism from other literary figures. Hurston was a conservative separatist. Contemporary Black authors were mostly liberal integrationists. Criticism included: having vague politics, falling prey to white stereotypes, and her use of dialect.

By the end of her life, she was very poor and living in a Welfare home. She was buried in an unmarked grave. In the 1970s, Alice Walker put up a headstone over the grave she believed to be Hurston’s.

Zora Neale Hurston is a book author.

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