Zora Neale Hurston, known for her audacious spirit and sharp wit, was a talented and prolific writer and a skilled anthropologist from the Harlem (New York) Renaissance to the Civil Rights Era. Born on January 7, 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama, she grew up in the all-black town of Eatonville, Florida. Her idyllic life in this provincial rural town was shattered with the death of her mother when Hurston was fourteen and her father’s unexpected remarriage. In a few years Hurston was on her own working as a maid. She settled in Baltimore, Maryland and completed her education at Morgan Academy and Howard University.
In September 1925 Hurston entered Barnard College, where she studied anthropology with the distinguished scholar Franz Boas. She received her B.A. in 1928. Throughout this period, however, Hurston continued to write. In June 1925 her short story “Spunk” was published in Opportunity. In collaboration with Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman, Hurston in the late 1920s edited the short-lived magazine Fire! Collaborating with Langston Hughes, in 1930 she wrote her first play titled Mule Bone, a comedy about African American rural folk life. Four years later Hurston published her first novel, Jonah’s Gourd Vine, loosely based on the life of her father, a rural minister. In 1935 she authored Mules and Men, a volume of anthropological folklore.
Hurston’s most famous work, Their Eyes Were Watching God, was published in 1937 followed by Moses, Man of the Mountain in 1939, and Seraph on the Suwanee, the least successful of her works, in 1948. Her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, appeared in 1942.