Zora Neale Thurston (1891-1960)

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960)

Zora Neale Hurston was born on January 7, 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama and died of heart disease on January 28, 1960, in Fort Pierce, Florida. She published seven books, and countless other articles and poems. Soon after she was born her family moved to Eatonville, Florida where she spent all of her childhood (Boyd, Valerie, 2020). When Hurston was nine years old, her mother died, and Hurston’s relationship with her reverend father grew very strained due to her rambunctious spirit. She was sent away to boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida, and by the age of 14, she was on her own. In 1917, she found herself in Baltimore, Maryland with no high school degree and knew she needed to finish her education, so she chopped 10 years off her age and changed her year of birth to 1901 so she could qualify for free public education (Boyd,Valerie, 2020) and by working as a waitress and manicurist, was able to earn enough money to enroll in Howard University.

 After earning an associate degree at Howard, Hurston moved on to Barnard College where she received a bachelor’s degree in 1928, and then began her graduate studies at Columbia University. Hurston’s first story, John Redding Goes to Sea was published in 1921. Hurston’s rise to fame began in 1925 when one of her plays won a second-place prize at an awards dinner sponsored by Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life. It was during this time that the Harlem Renaissance was beginning to take hold and Hurston, the talented, and vivacious young writer became known as the “Queen of the Renaissance”. By 1935, Hurston had a dozen published novels such as, Jonah’s Gourd Vine, and a collection of black Southern folklore, Mules and Men (Boyd, Valerie, 2020), with her most famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God was that was published in 1937, and tells the story of Janie, a young black woman, who is modeled after Hurston herself. It was not until 1942 she was recognized for her talent, that year Huston was profiled in Who’s Who in America, Current Biography, and Twentieth Century Authors (Boyd, Valerie, 2020). Sadly, when Hurston passed away on January 28, 1960, her neighbors had to take up collections to get the money together to pay for her funeral due to her never receiving the monetary awards she more than deserved (Boyd, Valerie, 2020). On February 7th, 1960 she was laid to rest in an unmarked grave due to the lack of funds to pay for her funeral (Boyd, Valerie, 2020). Laying in an unmarked plot for 13 years, in 1973 Alice Walker, an inspired young African American author, went to Eatonville, Florida that summer and paid for Hurston’s tombstone so she would never be forgotten (Boyd, Valerie, 2020).


Boyd, Valerie (2020). Zora Neale Hurston Biography.


Library System - Howard University. (n.d.). http://www.howard.edu/library/reference/guides/hurston/.

Norwood, A. R. (n.d.). Zora Neale Hurston. National Women's History Museum. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/zora-hurston.






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