Raised in Eatonville, Florida: a race colony - an all black community formed after the Civil War, governed completely by blacks.
Mother died when she was 11, father remarried. Hurston didn’t get along with his new wife.
1905 Hurston left home.
Hurston in Baltimore, age 26.
1905-1917 Biographers lose track of Hurston. Works for traveling acting company as a maid.
Moves in with her brother in Baltimore. Lies about her age to get into high school, claims she was born in 1901.
Works as a waitress and gets into Howard University, an all black college in Washington, DC.
Publishes a story in Howard University literary magazine.
The Harlem Renaissance
1925 - Answers the call of Harlem of the 1920’s. Arrives with $1.50 in her pocket. Is taken in by a house which supports black artists.
Hurston publishes more short stories.
Becomes a flamboyant figure in Harlem.
Group of writers become close friends, call themselves the “Niggerati.”
Hurston and Langston Hughes share a wealthy white patron, Charlotte Mason.
Hurston became good friends with Langston Hughes and other writers of the Harlem Renaissance. She is pictured here with Jessie Faucet and Hughes, both writers, in front of the statue of Booker T. Washington at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute, 1927.
Receives financial support to attend Barnard (the women’s side of Columbia University). The only African American student.
Studies anthropology under Franz Boaz, studying the differences between the races.
Hughes said, “Almost nobody else could stop the average Harlemite on Lenox Avenue with a strange looking anthropological device and not get bawled out for the attempt except Zora, who used to stop anyone whose head looked interesting and measure it.”
Hurston was hired by Charlotte Mason to collect folklore from African Americans in the South. Mason furnished her with a motion-picture camera and a Chervrolet.
Travels South to collect folklore, says she’s a bootlegger, carries a pistol.
Hurston collects stories, gaining an appreciation for the language and poetry of the southern culture.
Hurston becomes interested in Voodoo and travels much during her life studying indigenous religions. She visited Haiti, the Bahamas, and Honduras.
The Harlem Renaissance faded in the 1930’s, but Hurston published some major works:
1934 - Jonah’s Gourd Vine (a novel)
1935 - Mules and Men (collection of folktales)
1937 - Their Eyes Were Watching God (a novel)
1942 - Dust Tracks on a Road (an autobiography)
In the 1950’s Hurston holds a number of jobs from teaching to librarian to maid, still writing and sending in manuscripts, but fading into obscurity.
Hurston spent her last few years in Fort Pierce, Florida in this house owned by a doctor who admired her writing. She worked on a book, the life of Herod the Great, but she could never find a publisher for it. She died in 1960.
In the 1970’s Alice Walker rediscovered Hurston while doing research on Voodoo. She traveled to Hurston’s unmarked grave and paid to have a headstone placed on it. It says: