ZORA: Their Eyes were Watching God!
Zora Neale Hurston was an anthropologist, folklorist, and novelist; she loved collecting data on how people lived in the deep South. Zora was raised in Eatonville, Florida in the early 1900’s, which at that time was an all African American town. The experience of growing up in an all black town would eventually make its way into many of Zora’s stories.
When Zora was 13 years old, her mom went to heaven and her dad’s new wife didn’t want Zora around. So Zora struck out on her own to create a new life; she found work on a traveling show and also worked as a maid. While working as a maid, Zora’s employer noticed her abilities and made it possible for Zora to attend high school. Zora was in Baltimore, Maryland at the time. Once Zora finished high school, she went to Howard University and studied with Alain Locke, a professor of Philosophy and Black Culture. While at Howard University, Zora began writing and publishing short stories based on growing up in Eatonville.
In 1925, Zora made her way to New York City. It was an exciting time for African Americans in New York, especially in Harlem where all things black were being highlighted: the Harlem Renaissance. Everyone was flocking to Harlem to experience the music, plays, art, and literature of African Americans. Zora blended right in and made friends with many famous African American writers like Langston Hughes.
“Hurston became the first black student to attend Barnard College in New York. She studied with anthropologist Franz Boas. She became interested in anthropology -- the study of the origin, development and actions of humans. Boas recognized Hurston’s storytelling ability and deep interest in the black culture of the South. He urged her to do more research there.” (1)
With money from a wealthy patron and funds from a Guggenheim Award, Zora was able to travel throughout the rural South, Caribbean, and Haiti to gather stories about culture, rituals, and traditions of people. Zora used the information she gathered to write novels, plays, and hundreds of short stories. Zora’s novels include:
Jonah’s Gourd Vine
Mules and Men
Moses, Man of the Mountain
Dust Tracks on a Road
Seraph on a Sewanee
Zora’s novel, Their Eyes were Watching God, was even turned into a movie.