Zora Neale Hurston is best remembered as the Harlem Renaissance novelist who contributed Their Eyes Were Watching God to the American canon. Like so many novelists, Hurston also produced a fair amount of short fiction over the course of her career. Toward the end of her life, she continued to write but was unable to support herself doing it full time. In fact, when ‘‘Conscience of the Court’’ was published in the March 18, 1950, issue of the Saturday Evening Post, she was working as a maid. It would be her last original short story published.
‘‘Conscience of the Court’’ is a relatively simple story of devotion and justice. A black maid is on trial for assaulting a white man. As the details of the story come to light, the maid is exonerated and even commended for her behavior and the devotion that motivated it. The story reveals Hurston’s affinity for themes of genuine love and devotion and her belief that these themes are relevant to the human experience, whether crossing racial lines or not.