American History / Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston

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Autor:  lisadee  10 February 2011
Tags:  Zora,  American Hisstory,  writer
Words: 989   |   Pages: 4
Views: 538

The list of words accurately describing the 30 year career of Zora Neale Hurston includes anthropologist, dramatist, essayist, folklorist, novelist, short story writer and autobiographer.

The early life of Zora Neale Hurston has been shrouded in mystery with the majority of biographical accounts list the year of her birth as 1901, some list it as 1903 and in recent years 1891. For many years, her birth place was said to have been Eatonville, Florida, however, recent evidence has placed it to be Notasulga, Alabama.

One of eight children, Zora Neale Hurston and her family moved to Eatonville when she was 3. Eatonville was incorporated in 1886 as the first self- governed all black city in America. Her mother, Lucy died when Zora was a child, but she encouraged her to "jump at de sun. You might not land on the sun but at least you'll get off the ground."

Upon reaching adulthood in 1917, she enrolled in Morgan Academy, which was the high school division of Morgan College, (now Morgan State University). She was 26 years old but listed her age as 16. From there, in 1918, she went on to Howard where she received an associate's degree. There she took classes until 1924. She secured a scholarship which allowed her to transfer to Bernard College, where she was the first black student. There she received her B.A. in 1928.

From 1928 to 1932, she studied anthropology and folklore at Columbia University. In 1936, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for traveling and collecting folklore in Haiti and the British West Indies.

Zora was married twice. The first husband was Herbert Sheen in 1927. They divorced in 1931. As Sheen later told Hurston's biographer, Hemeway, "the marriage was doomed to an early, amicable divorce" because Hurston's career was her first priority. Her second marriage was to Albert Price III in 1939 and they divorced in 1943. Price contends that he feared for his life because Hurston had threatened "to fix him" with voodoo if he "would not perform her wishes." She wrote about her experiences with the hoodoo culture in New Orleans. In some cases, she apprenticed herself to local hoodoo doctors and was able to learn several "spells."

Zora Neale Hurston in arrived in New York in 1925 and immediately became involved with the Harlem Renaissance, the black literary and cultural movement of the1920's. She was a talented writer who would celebrate that culture through her art. She is said to have personified the movement and was dubbed the "Queen of the Renaissance." She was, however, criticized because she failed to address the subject of racism. She viewed the world from the perspective of Eatonville, a place where blacks could be sovereign from all of white society, even segregation. She insisted on being herself at a time when blacks were being urged to assimilate in an effort to promote better relations between blacks and whites. Her reply to her critics was "I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul nor lurking behind my eyes. …… I did not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a low down dirty deal and feelings are all hurt about it… no, I did not weep at the world – I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife."

Zora Neale Hurston has written four novels, over 50 short stories and essays and a prize winning autobiography but her most powerful novel was Their Eyes Were Watching God in 1937.

Hurston never reached the pinnacle of the literary success despite some recognition of her novels, folklore and autobiography. In 1948, her professional and private world of collapsed when she was arrested on a morals charge in New York City. She was arrested on charges of molesting a ten year old retarded boy. The case was thrown out of court but not before the black press, the Baltimore Afro American ran it as a front page scandal. She confided in a friend that "all that I have ever tried to do has proved useless. All that I have believed in has failed me. I have resolved to die…. No acquittal will persuade some people I am innocent. I feel hurled down a filthy privy hole."

In October, 1959 Hurston suffered a stroke. She died in January, 1960 of hypertensive heart disease and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Garden of the Heavenly Rest. She died in poverty and a collection had to be taken up to pay for her funeral.

In 1973, Alice Walker made a visit to Hurston's resting place and placed a tombstone on the sight she guessed to be Hurston's unmarked grave. The stone was inscribed: "Zora Neale Hurston, a Genius of the South."

As she wrote in 1941 while working on her autobiography: "While I am still below the allotted span of time, and notwithstanding, I feel that I have lived. I have had the joy and pain of strong friendships. I have served and been served. I have made enemies of which I'm not ashamed. I have been faithless, and then I have been faithful and steadfast until the blood ran down into my shoes. I have loved unselfishly with all the ardor of a strong heart, and I have hated with all the power of my soul. What waits for me in the future? I do not know. I can't even imagine, and I am glad for that. But already, I have touched the four corners of the horizon, for from hard searching it seems to me that tears and laughter, love and hate make up the sum of life."

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