Why is young Zora so remarkable, especially for the time period she lives in?
Zora Neale Hurston grew up in the Deep South during the Jim Crow-era laws, including segregation. Fortunately for Hurston, she grew up in Eatonville, Florida, while not the first black community in America, it was "the first to be incorporated, the first attempt at organized self-government on the part of Negroes in America."
Hurston's experience in Eatonville is important because Hurston didn't face the same discrimination other blacks in The South experienced during the Jim Crow era. She could go anywhere she wanted in Eatonville without being denied service or being worried about looking white people in the eye.
In addition, Hurston's experiences with white people who lived in or visited Eatonville were primarily positive ones. The white man who helped birth Hurston often took her fishing giving her life advice. Two white women from Minnesota traveled to Eatonville and took a special interest in Hurston after hearing her read. The two gifted this one talented black elementary school student a roll of pennies and some books.
This is why Hurston never minded sitting on her porch to tail white folks who passed by in front of her house, but it frightened her grandmother who was born in slavery and knew all about the racism in The South.
This also helps explain a reason why Hurston was so antagonistic toward the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1955. She didn't grow up with the vicious racism that was present in much of The South and had a fine childhood in the primarily African-American Eatonville.