Zora Neale Hurston Poster, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross - PBS
DESIGN: Jed Dore

Zora Neale Hurston

1891-1960
Source: “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” (1928)

Zora Neale Hurston was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and author. Her writing is often associated with the Harlem Renaissance—a black cultural movement that took off in the 1920s. She spent her childhood in Alabama and Florida before studying first at Howard University, and then Barnard College, where she was the school’s only black student. Shortly before starting at Barnard, Hurston’s short story “Spunk” was included in The New Negro—an anthology of fiction, poetry, and essays curated by Alain Locke. She traveled extensively, conducting anthropological research in the Caribbean and the American South. In 1937, Hurston wrote her seminal work, Their Eyes Were Watching God, which tells the story of Janie Crawford, a woman living in Florida in the early 20th century. The novel was received well by mainstream but was criticized by Harlem Renaissance notables like author Richard Wright, attacking it for failing to be a piece of “serious fiction.” The novel was rediscovered when universities started establishing Black Studies programs in the 1970s and 80s. Her literary legacy includes four novels and more than 50 short stories, plays, and essays.

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