Zora Neale Hurston (c. 1891-1960)


Author, anthropologist, and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston was born in Natasulga, Alabama, in 1891. Hurston attended school at Howard Prep School and Howard University in Washington, D.C. She then won a scholarship to Barnard College in 1925 where she received a degree in anthropology while studying under famed anthropologist Franz Boaz .

Hurston then did field research recording the folklore of African Americans, from Harlem to Florida and other areas of the South in the late 1920s. During the Depression, she helped folksong collector Alan Lomax document the folk music of Georgia, Florida, and the Bahamas. She worked with the Federal Writer's Project interviewing Floridians about their lives and culture and recording and collecting the diverse folk song of the state. Hurston studied folklore in other places too, such as Haiti and Jamaica, and studied black communities in Central America. She wrote Tell My Horse (1938) based on information she gathered about Haitian and Jamaican voodoo.

Hurston was very active in the Harlem Renaissance. Between the 1930s and 1960 she was one of the most prolific black woman writers in the United States. She published and edited books and numerous short stories, magazine articles, and plays. Her most famous work was Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937).

To fund her education and to supplement her writing career, over the years Hurston worked as a manicurist, a librarian, a dramatic coach with the Works Progress Administration Theatre Project, a story consultant at Paramount Pictures, a maid, and a teacher.

In 1960 she died in St. Lucie, Florida, having suffered a stroke the previous year. At the time she was virtually unrecognized and was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1973 author Alice Walker rediscovered Hurston’s grave and marked it with a tombstone. In 1975 Walker published ‘In Search of Zora Neale Hurston’ in Ms. Magazine, sparking a Hurston revival. Hurston is now recognized as one of America's great writers and Eatonville, Florida, where she grew up, is now the home of the annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities and numerous seminars and symposia on her life and work.


Additional Resources:

Web Sites:

  • Library of Congress
  • List of Zora Neale Hurston's Works
  • The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture


  • Boyd, Valerie. Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston (Scribner, 2004).
  • Gates, Henry L. Zora Neale Hurston: Critical Perspectives Past and Present (Amistad, 1999).
  • Hemenway, Robert E. Zora Neal Hurston: A Literary Biography (IL: University of Illinois Press, 1980).
  • Hurston, Lucy. Speak, So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston (NY: Doubleday, 2004).
  • Hurston, Zora Neale and Alice Walker. I Love Myself When I Am Laughing...And Then Again: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader (NY: The Feminist Press at CUNY, 1979).
  • Hurston, Zora Neale and Cheryl Wall. Zora Neale Hurston: Folklore, Memoirs, and Other Writings: Mules and Men, Tell My Horse, Dust Tracks on a Road, Selected Articles (Library of America, 1995).
  • Hurston, Zora Neale. The Complete Stories (NY: Harper Perennial, 1996).
  • Hurston, Zora Neale. Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography (NY: Harper Perennial, reprinted 1996).
  • Kaplan, Carla. Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters (Anchor, 2003).
  • Lester, Neal A. Understanding Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents (Greenwood Press, 1999).
  • Patterson, Tiffany Ruby. Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life (Temple University Press, 2005).
  • Plant, Deborah H. Every Tub Must Sit on Its Own Bottom: The Philosophy and Politics of Zora Neale Hurston (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995).


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