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Zora Neale Hurston

Writer

Born: 7 January 1891
Died: 28 January 1960
Birthplace: Notasulga, Alabama
Best known as: Author of Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston was the flamboyant author of the 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, and a leading figure in African-American literature of the 20th century. She grew up in Florida, but Hurston made her fame in New York as a writer and well-known participant in the rich cultural scene there in the 1920s and '30s (a period sometimes called the Harlem Renaissance). Hurston studied anthropology at Howard University and Barnard College, and her work as a writer was intertwined with her studies of black folklore of the South. She wrote the novels Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934), Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) and Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939); she published the studies on folklore Mules and Men (1935) and Tell My Horse (1938); and she published an entertaining -- if not precisely accurate -- autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road (1942). Despite her fame and reputation in the 1930s, by the time of her death in 1960 Hurston was penniless and nearly forgotten. The emergence of African American and women's studies in the 1970s, as well as the support of other writers (especially Alice Walker), caused renewed interest in Hurston's work and now her books are again widely available.
Extra credit: Their Eyes Were Watching God was made into a TV movie in 2005, starring Halle Berry... Hurston claimed she was born in Eatonville, Florida, but recent biographers cite census records showing she was born in Alabama in 1891... She wrote a play with Langston Hughes called Mule Bone, but it was not published until 1991.

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