Zora Neale Hurston - One of the most Influential Florida Authors

Zora Neale Hurston
Carl Van Vechten, Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston, April 3, 1938. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, Van Vechten Collection, Washington, D.C.

Florida Author Feature 

Florida Author Zora Neale Hurston

Genres: Fiction, poetry, memoir, coming-of-age, short stories, plays.

About the author: (Born January 7, 1891, in Notasulga, Alabama, U.S.—died January 28, 1960, in Fort Pierce, Florida)

Zora Neale Hurston was born in Alabama in 1891. Both of her parents had been enslaved. Her family moved to Eatonville, Florida when she was 3 years old, and her father became mayor of Eatonville in 1897.  

She graduated from the high school program at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, and she attended Howard University in Washington DC, Barnard College in New York, and Columbia University in New York. 

In addition to her writing, Hurston also taught theater at the historically black colleges Fisk University in Tennessee and at Bethune Cookman College in Daytona, Florida. In 1934, Hurston established a school for dramatic arts at Bethune-Cookman College. 

Zora Neale Hurston's gravestone in Fort Pierce, Florida
Zora Neale Hurston's gravestone in Fort Pierce, Florida
(Courtesy Find A Grave.com)

At the time of her death, Hurston lived in Fort Pierce, Florida. She is buried at the Garden of Heavenly Rest in Fort Pierce, Florida, a segregated cemetery, which was abandoned and overgrown. For years her grave was unmarked, but author Alice Walker and Hurston scholar Charlotte D. Hunt led a mission to find her grave, and there is now a marker in the area where she was buried. On the gravestone that Walker erected in Hurston's honor, the engraving says: “Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South.”

The home below is where she lived during her time in St. Augustine Florida. 

Zora Neale Hurston's St. Augustine Home
Zora Neale Hurston's St. Augustine Home - the home is currently for sale, as the owner Johnnie Pascoe recently passed away at the age of 100.

From the marker by the Zora Neale Hurston home in St. Augustine on West King Street in St. Augustine,  Florida. 

"Noted author Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) rented a room in this house in 1942. One of the few surviving buildings closely linked with Hurston’s life, it is an example of frame Vernacular construction, with cool, north-facing porches on both floors. The owners frequently rented to female students at nearby Florida Normal and Industrial Institute (now Florida Memorial College in Miami). While living here Hurston taught part time at the Institute and completed her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. Also, she met novelist Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, a St. Augustine resident and author of The Yearling. Earlier in 1927 Hurston married Herbert Sheen, a Chicago medical student, at the St. Johns County Courthouse. Hurston was one of the first to appreciate the significance of Fort Mose north of St. Augustine, the first town settled by free black people in the United States. Her article on Fort Mose appeared in the October, 1927 issue of the Journal of Negro History. During her lifetime Hurston traveled the back roads of Florida collecting folk stories and songs that she used to write musical plays, short stories, and novels." 

Zora Neale Hurston's Influence:
Zora Neale Hurston incorporated her dedication to promoting and studying black culture into her fictional works. While she was mostly ignored at the time of publication, and most of her work was out of print by the time of her death, she has been deemed to be one of the foremost women writers of the 20th century.

According to novelist Alice Walker, “Her work had a sense of black people as complete, complex, undiminished human beings and that was crucial to me as a writer." 

In a 1967 anthology titled The Best Short Stories by Black Writers,
Langston Hughes, who knew Hurston in the 1930s, included Hurston's "The Gilded Six Bits."

Zora Neale Hurston's books and published works before her death: 

"Journey's End" (Negro World, 1922), poetry 

"Night" (Negro World, 1922), poetry 

"Passion" (Negro World, 1922), poetry 

Color Struck (Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life, 1925), play 

Muttsy (Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life) 1926, short story. 

"Sweat" (1926), short story 

"How It Feels to Be Colored Me" (1928), essay 

"Hoodoo in America" (1931) in The Journal of American Folklore 

"The Gilded Six-Bits" (1933), short story 

Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934), novel 

Mules and Men (1935), non-fiction 

Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), novel 

Tell My Horse (1938), non-fiction 

Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939), novel 

Dust Tracks on a Road (1942), autobiography 

Seraph on the Suwanee (1948), novel 

"What White Publishers Won't Print" (Negro Digest, 1950)

Support Zora Neale Hurston's legacy:

If you would like to learn more about Zora Neale Hurston or support the organizations preserving her work and bringing attention to Hurston's work and life accomplishments, you can find some of the Zora Neale Hurston books at your local library. 

Visit the list below for more information.

There is a special Zora Neale Hurston Festival, which takes place in Eatonville, Florida every year in January. You can find information about the Zora Neale Hurston festival here. 

The Zora Neale Hurston Trust

The Zora Neale Hurston Musem in Eatonville, Florida

The Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community

Works Cited:

Zora Neale Hurston | Biography, Books, Short Stories, & Facts | Britannica

The Hurston Museum - Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community (preserveeatonville.org)

Life Story: Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960) - Women & the American Story (nyhistory.org)

Zora Neale Hurston's life and career timeline | American Masters | PBS

The Zora Neale Hurston We Don’t Talk About | The New Yorker

Looking for Zora by Alice Walker.pdf (google.com)

Intersections: Crafting a Voice for Black Culture : NPR

How Alice Walker Rediscovered Zora Neale Hurston (literaryladiesguide.com)