Departure point: “But I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife” (Hurston).
And sharpen she did… Professionally, she wrote and published prolifically from the 1930s through the 1960s: seven books—”Eyes” in 1937 being her most famous (over 29 have been written about her). Close to 100 short stories, magazine articles, and plays She also gained a reputation as an outstanding folklorist and novelist of African- American southern tales
Personally, she was an enigma*: Hurston’s claim: Born during “hog-killing time”—January 7 th and gave 1898-1903 as dates, Eatonville as the location family bible, a brother and census records her birth in January 1891 in Alabama Married (maybe for #1) twice or thrice, and separated within months/divorced years later. Intense love affair during the time she wrote “Eyes” *puzzling, ambiguous, or inexplicable.
Personally, she was an enigma: “Hurston counted herself one of the progressive "New Negroes" and slyly proclaimed herself "Queen of the Niggerati." She feuded with Richard Wright and the Communists, drove a red convertible, packed a gun at times for protection and once knocked out a masher who propositioned her in an elevator (Blumenthal)”. Lived large portions of her life in near-poverty, died in a welfare home for the aged, buried in unmarked grave with works out of print.
Youth: Father carpenter and preacher forbade reading of novels mayor of Eatonville for 3 terms Mother, school teacher who died when Zora was 9
Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to “jump at de sun.” We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground. - Zora Neale Hurston
Youth: After her father remarried, she left Eatonville to be "passed around the family like a bad penny." In 1917, left Eatonville and finished high school in Baltimore She attended Howard University from 1921 to 1924 and in 1925 won a scholarship to Barnard College, graduating as it’s first African-American to do so. Also graduate work for 2 years at Columbia University.
Harlem Renaissance NYC “Zora Hurston was an extraordinary witty woman, and she acquired an instant reputation in New York for her high spirits and side- splitting tales of Eatonville life. She could walk into a room of strangers... and almost immediately gather people, charm, amuse, and impress them (Canada)."
Harlem Renaissance NYC Patronage of Charlotte Mason, “Godmother” black people possessed a spirit that was pure and deep; spirit that white people lost in lust for $ Funded for folklore south and voodoo in West Indies Friendship with Langston Hughes; “Mule Bone” fallout Published most of her books in the 1930’s (Moses, Man of the Mountain, Mules and Men, Their Eyes were Watching God)
And then… Zora’s books didn’t sell well and went out of print Politics and plagiarism issues In 1942, published her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road –met with criticism (white/black issues again) and accusations of self-aggrandizing*) *To make greater in power, influence, stature, or reputation.
And then, cont… Left NY and spent her time writing, mainly for magazines, and living in Florida, including on houseboat on numerous Florida rivers and trips to Bahamas for voodoo research for next 18 years In 1948, accused of child molestation—10 year old retarded boy (acquitted) depression Jobs in her life included: Maid, Waitress, Manicurist, Writer-Novelist and Playwright, Anthropologist, Folklorist, Drama Instructor, Story Consultant – Paramount Pictures, Librarian, Republican congressional campaigner, Reporter, Substitute Teacher
Death and Alice 1959 suffered severe stroke and admitted to welfare home in St. Lucie, Florida dies in the welfare home as a result of hypertensive heart disease and was buried in a segregated cemetery with an unmarked grave. 1973: Novelist Alice Walker goes on a "Zora expedition" retracing her roots to write a book about her. Discovers Hurston’s unmarked grave and purchases a headstone for it.
which reads: Zora Neale Hurston, A Genius of the South. Novelist, Folklorist, Anthropologist.
Works Cited Blumenthal, Ralph. “Party for Zora Neale Hurston, Obscure No More.” New York Times, August 15, 2002. Canada, Mark, ed. "Zora Neale Hurston." Canada's America. 1997. ). Haskins, Jim. Harlem Renaissance. Brookfield, CN: The Millbrook Press, 1996. Hurston, Zora Neale. “How it Feels to Be Colored Me.” Originally published in World Tomorrow. 1928. 10 Feb. 2004. Luker, Ralph E. "Hurston, Zora Neale.” American National Biography Online Feb. 2000. 19 Feb 2004.. McHenry, Robert (ed.). “Zora Hurston:Her Heritage: A Biographical Encyclopedia of Famous American Women.” 2003. 11 Feb 2004.http://static.elibrary.com/h /herheritageabiographicalencyclopediaoffamousameric/december201995/hurstonzoranealebiogra phy/index.html Nathiri, N.Y. Zora!: Zora Neale Hurston—A Woman of her Community. Orlando: Sentinel Communications Company, 1991.