The Roaring 20's

                                   Zora Neale Hurston

                                           Early Life

 The early life of Zora Neale Hurston has been shrouded in mystery.  While the majority of biographical accounts list the year of her birth as 1901, just as many list 1903, and in recent years 1891.  For many years her birthplace was said to have been Eatonville, Fla. (the setting of many of her writings), however, recent evidence has placed it as Notasulga, Ala.  Zora was the fifth of eight children of John and Lucy Ann Potts Hurston.  Her father was a Baptist preacher, tenant farmer, and carpenter.  At age three her family moved to Eatonville, the first incorporated black community in America with a then population of 125, and of which her father would later become mayor.  To Zora Eatonville would become a utopia, glorified in her stories as a place black Americans could live as they desire, independent of white society and all its ways.  The death of her mother when she was thirteen was a devastating event for Zora as she was "passed around the family like a bad penny" by her father for the next several years.

                               Harlem Renaissance

In New York Hurston became part the New Negro movement -- later referred to as the Harlem Renaissance -- attending parties with other notable African American writers such as Langston Hughes, Jessie Fauset, and Arna Bontemps. Hurston apparently cut quite a figure in Harlem society, her hat perched jauntily on her head, as she regaled groups with her tales of Eatonville, Florida and shocked others with her outrageous behavior which included such social excesses as smoking in public. During her early years in New York Hurston worked as an assistant to writer Fanny Hurst and began taking classes at Barnard College. At Barnard she studied anthropology under the renowned scholar Franz Boas. Her particular interest was in the area of folklore, and her background in Eatonville provided her both with rich data for scholarly study and fine raw material for her writing. Over the next several years Hurston would travel in the south, interviewing storytellers in Florida and Hoodoo doctors in New Orleans, all of which would feed into her writing.

                                           Her Books

Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934)
Mules and Men (1935)
Tell My Horse (1937)
Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939)
Dust Tracks on a Road (1942)
Seraph on the Suwanee (1948)
Sanctified Church (1981)
Mule Bone (A play written with Langston Hughes) (1996)
Spunk (1985)
The Complete Stories (1995)
Novels and Stories
Folklore, Memoirs, and Other Writings
Barracoon (1999)