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Zora Neale Hurston
Born January 7, 1891
Notasulga, Alabama, United States
Died January 28, 1960 (aged 69)
Fort Pierce, Florida, United States
Occupation Folklorist, anthropologist, novelist, short story writer
Hurston was the fifth of eight children of John Hurston and Lucy Ann
Hurston (née Potts). Her father was a Baptist preacher, tenant farmer,
and carpenter, and her mother was a school teacher. She was born in
Notasulga, Alabama, on January 7, 1891, where her father grew up and
her grandfather was the preacher of a Baptist church. Her family moved
to Eatonville, Florida, one of the first all-black towns to be
incorporated in the United States, when she was three. Hurston said she
as her birthplace.
Anthropological and folkloric fieldwork
Hurston traveled extensively in the Caribbean and the American South
and immersed herself in local cultural practices to conduct her
anthropological research. Her work in the South, sponsored from 1928 to
1932 by Charlotte Osgood Mason, a wealthy philanthropist, produced
Mules and Men in 1935, often regarded as a folklore classic, as well as
the base material for novels like Jonah's Gourd Vine published in 1934.
In 1936 and 1937, she traveled to Jamaica and to Haiti with support
from the Guggenheim Foundation from which her anthropological work Tell
My Horse published in 1938 emerged.
She also lived in Honduras, at the north coastal town of Puerto Cortés
from October 1947 to February 1948. Her trip to Central America was
apparently occasioned by the idea of locating either Mayan ruins or
vestiges of some other as yet undiscovered civilization. While in
Puerto Cortés, she wrote much of Seraph on the Suwanee, a book which
had nothing to do with Honduras. Hurston expressed interest in the
polyethnic nature of the population in the region (many of whom, such
as the Miskito Zambu and Garifuna were in fact of partial African
In 1948, Hurston was falsely accused of molesting a ten-year-old boy;
although the case was dismissed after Hurston presented evidence that
she was in Honduras when the crime supposedly occurred in the U.S., her
personal life was seriously disrupted by the scandal.
|A 1935 photograph of the most famous daughter of Eatonville, Fla., |
the writer Zora Neale Hurston, by Alan Lomax.