Zora Neale Hurston Biography

Zora Neale Hurston Biography

Like so many writers, Zora Neale Hurston was ahead of her time and not fully appreciated by her contemporaries, but she is now considered one of the most important African American women of the twentieth century. Her most famous work is the 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. One of its key (but controversial) features was the use of dialogue in an African American dialect. Though some critics at the time, including many from the African American community, viewed the novel’s dialogue as caricatured, it would become a celebrated trademark of Hurston’s writing. Her uncompromising novels later influenced seminal African American writers such as Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Alice Walker.

Facts and Trivia

  • Eatonville, Florida, where Hurston grew up, was an all-black incorporated town, which her father was elected mayor of in 1897.
  • John Hurston and Lucy Ann Potts, Hurston's parents, were both former slaves.
  • After her mother's death, Hurston's father and stepmother sent her to boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida, but eventually stopped paying the tuition, and Hurston was expelled.
  • Although highly regarded as a literary figure, Hurston originally studied anthropology, receiving a bachelor’s degree in that field from Barnard College.
  • Hurston was one of many artists who contributed to a period known as the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural flourishing of literature, art, and music by and about African Americans.
  • Despite the leftist leanings of fellow Renaissance members like Langston Hughes, Hurston was ardently conservative.
  • Hurston did not believe that integration was a positive step for black culture, fearing that it would be diluted (if not eliminated) by its absorption into white society.
  • Hurston was buried in an unmarked grave. Although Alice Walker later placed a gravestone over where some believe Hurston was buried, the exact location of her final resting place remains unknown.
  • Though her work is celebrated today, Hurston, due to medical and financial problems, died in a county welfare home.
Additional Content
  • Biography (History of the World: The 20th Century)
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  • Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)
  • Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)
  • Biography (Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)
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