Zora Neale Hurston: Biography

Zora Neale Hurston

07 jan 1891

Considered to be an American folklorist and author, Zora Neale Hurston is one of the most known writers of the 20th Century who contributed to African-American literature. Zora was born on Jan 7, 1891 in Alabama, U.S to parents who were once slaves. Her father was a pastor and the family moved to Florida when Zora was very young.

Zora’s schooling lasted only till she was 13. Her mother’s death brought great difficulty in her life and so when she was 16 years old, she joined a theatrical company for her living and ended up in New York during the Harlem Renaissance.

Since Zora was good in academics, she did various jobs and attended Howard University. She also won a Scholarship to Barnard College where she studied anthropology. She was on the faculty of North Carolina College for Negroes in Durham for a long period.

During the Harlem Renaissance, Zora got acquainted to many famous writers. Zora excelled in capturing the stories of many cultures including her own African-American heritage. Zora’s writing career which spanned for more than 30 years started with her first novel, ‘Jonah’s Gourd Vine’, published in 1934. This novel received great reviews from critics for its portrayal of African – American life. Many other novels such as ‘Mules and Men’, ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’, ‘Tell My Horse’ and ‘Moses, Man of the Mountain’ followed.

Zora’s talent to break into secret societies made her travel to Haiti during 1937 with the help of Guggenheim fellowship and conducted research on conjure. One of Zora’s work, ‘Dust Tracks on a Road’ was highly appreciated. Zora’s novels were not read much during her lifetime. During her final years she suffered both personally and financially. She was unable to publish her work.

After few years, Zora suffered several strokes and lived in St. Lucie County Welfare Home. Zora Neale Hurston died on Jan 28, 1960 in Florida. Alice Walker played a great role in bringing back her works. It was his essay, ‘In Search of Zora Neale Hurston’ that made her work known to the new generation of readers.

Many of her novels got published posthumously. Zora was once a famous author who died unknown to the world and again got popularity through her works.