Essays On Zora Neale Hurston

On January 7, 1891, Zora Neale Hurston was born in the tiny town of Notasulga, Alabama. She was the fifth of eight children in the Hurston household. Her father John was a carpenter, a sharecropper, and a Baptist preacher; her mother Lucy was a former schoolteacher. Within a year of Zora's birth, the family moved to Eatonville, Florida. Eatonville was the first incorporated black municipality in the United States.

In 1904, thirteen-year-old Zora was devastated by the death of her mother. Later that same year, her father removed her from school and sent her to care for her brother's children. A rambunctious and restless teenager, Zora was eager to leave the responsibility of her brother's household. She became a member of a traveling theater at the age of sixteen, and subsequently began domestic work in a white household. The woman for whom Zora worked bought her her first book and arranged for her to attend high school at Morgan Academy (now known as Morgan State University) in Baltimore. She graduated in June 1918.

The following summer, Zora worked as a waitress and manicurist before enrolling in Howard Prep School. She later attended Howard University. Although she spent nearly four years at Howard, she graduated with only a two-year Associate's degree. This may be explained by the fact that Zora spent most of her time at Howard writing. Beginning with a college publication, and then branching out into writing contests in newspapers and magazines, the early 1920s marked the beginning of Zora Neale Hurston's career as an author.

In 1925, as the Harlem Renaissance was building steam, Hurston headed to New York City. She enrolled in Barnard College to study under Franz Boas, an important founder of American anthropology. While there, Hurston married her boyfriend from Howard, Herbert Sheen, but the marriage was short-lived. After graduation, Zora returned to her hometown of Eatonville to collect stories as material for her blossoming writing career. In the late 1920s, Hurston published several works and consequently gained financial sponsorship from wealthy New York patrons.

The 1930s and early 1940s marked the peak of Hurston's literary career. She completed graduate work at Columbia, published four novels and an autobiography, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. She traveled to the Caribbean where she became intrigued by the practice of voodoo and she began to incorporate supernatural elements into her novels and stories. Although her work received increasing acclaim from the white literati of New York, Zora often felt under attack by members of the Black Arts Movement. She termed these detractors as members of the "niggerati" for being close-minded in their criticism of her racial politics.

By the mid-1940s Hurston's writing career was faltering, and she was arrested and charged with molesting a ten-year-old boy. Although she was acquitted, the scars to her image remained permanent. Hurston sunk into depression as publishers rejected one after another of her works.

Around 1950, Hurston returned to Florida where she worked by cleaning houses. After a slew of unsuccessful career changes (including newspaper journalist, librarian, and substitute teacher), Hurston became a penniless recluse. She suffered a fatal stroke in 1959 and was buried at unmarked grave in Fort Pierce, Florida.

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Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston was a phenomenal woman. At the height of her success she was known as the "Queen of the Harlem Renaissance." She came to overcome obstacles that were placed in front of her. Hurston rose from poverty to fame and lost it all at the time of her death. Zora had an unusual life; she was a child that was forced to grow up to fast. But despite Zora Neale Hurston"s unsettled life, she managed to surmount every obstacle to become one of the most profound authors of the century.

Zora Neale Hurston was born January 7, 1891 in Eatonville, Florida, the fifth of eight children to Reverend John Hurston and Lucy Potts Hurston. Zora was extraordinary person. When her mother died she was able to stay strong. Her father, didn"t have enough love in his heart to hold on to his daughter, she was casted out of the house by her estranged father; in addition, to being neglected Hurston, dealt with the periodic moving, against society expectations Hurston survived her harsh childhood.

At the age of thirteen, Zora Neal Hurston"s life came to a halt. The woman who she would look to for understanding, support, protection and encouragement, her mother, died. From that point she had no direction in her life. She started

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writing just to keep herself from emotional and physical loneness. Hurston was devastated by the death of her mother (Howard 3).

After the death of Zora"s mother, Hurston was sent to Jacksonville to go to

school. Two months after school started Zora received news that her father had remarried. Zora"s father was never close to her, nevertheless she would come to respect and admire him. In her eyes, Hurston saw her father as a remarkable man who had beaten tough odds to make something of himself. Zora was never to return home from school; unfortunately she didn"t have a choice, since the school would not adopt her, as her father wanted them to. "Without Lucy Hurston to spur him on, he seemed content with what he had already accomplished, not only unwilling to assume new responsibilities but eager to lighten the load" (Witcover 35). With the little interest that the new Ms. Hurston took in the ambition of her husband or his children Zora Neale Hurston left home never to return.

Zora found herself being passed from relative to relative. For the first time in her life she learned what poverty was like, how people "could be slave ships in shoes" (Hemenway 17). The constant relocation prompted Zora to go to work. Most of the jobs Hurston landed as maids and waitresses didn"t last long, due to her independent attitude. Hurston spent the next five years wandering from one job to another, living from hand to mouth, never able to afford new clothes or, even worse, books. Hurston, finally found a break when she became a wardrobe girl in the Gilbert and Sullivan theatrical troop. For eighteen months, she traveled with them feeling like a part of their family. With the assistance of one of the actresses, Zora

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entered Morgan Academy in Baltimore, MD (The high school division of what is now Morgan State University) in the fall of 1917(Howard 5).

For the first time in her life, Zora Neale Hurston found a sense of accomplishment. Not only did she get her high school diploma, but she also went to college. During a time of racial oppression and Americans returning from World War I she managed to maintain various jobs to pay for her education. Morgan Academy was just the beginning of her extensive education. Howard University and Barnard College are where she obtained her degrees.

In the fall of 1919, Zora Neale Hurston became a freshman at Howard University. Hurston studied intermittently at Howard for the next five years; the institution she would proudly call "The capstone of the Negro education in the world." Hurston enjoyed college life even though she was a decade older than other freshmen. With the assistance of college professors Georgia Douglas Johnson and Alain Locke, Zora began to write short stories. These stories brought her to the attention of Charles Spurgeon Johnson, the sociologist and shaker and mover of the Harlem Renaissance. He invited Hurston to New York to try her fortune as a writer. Zora wasn"t in New York long before she was met eminent black writers and sophisticated white writers, who invited her to dinner parties and nightclubs. It was at the Opportunity dinner party where Hurston met Annie Nathan Meyer who saw a brilliant mind beneath Zora"s flashy exterior (Howard 4).

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Zora Neale Hurston obtained a scholarship from Ms. Meyer to attend Barnard College (the woman"s division of Columbia). In the fall of 1925, Hurston began classes. Zora was Barnard first African American student. While at Barnard Hurston met Dr. Franz Boas, a professor at Columbia. Boas saw Hurston as an exceptionally gifted woman with on unusual background. He introduced Zora to anthropology. (The science of humankind and culture). In 1928, Hurston graduated from Barnard with a Bachelor Degree (Hemenway 62-63).

Zora Neale Hurston was a remarkable, widely published black woman of her day—the author of more than fifty articles and short stories as well as four novels, two folklore, an autobiography and some plays. She is well known for her greatest book Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Zora started writing short stories when she was in college. By the time of her death, she had written numerous of stories and articles in a variety of magazines, newspapers, and college papers. She wanted to tell stories about men and women, about love and hate misunderstandings, about marriage and life and life"s possibilities, about selfhood and ultimately nationhood (Howard 6).

Between 1934 and 1948 Zora Neale Hurston published seven books. Two Folklore Mules and Men and Tell my Horse, four novels Jonah"s Gourd Vine, Moses, Man, of the Mountain, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Seraph on the Suwanee, Dust Tracks on a Road was her autobiography (Witcover 114).

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Of all the books that were written by Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God was by far the most famous of her masterpieces. Today it stands as one of the most important pieces of fiction writing by a black woman. Zora was eccentric; she walks brightly among us today as a heroin (Howard 98-99).

Zora Neale Hurston was an outstanding woman. Although she had to struggle, Hurston was a hard working young lady that was determined to make it in life. Zora was able to finished high school and attend college. Zora also became a famous writer who wrote and published many plays and books throughout her career. Zora gained fame and lost it all at the time of her death. She was a remarkable woman who will never be forgotten.


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