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Strong Rooted Volume II: Republished

Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891-January 28, 1960)

Zora Neale Hurston was born on January 7, 1891, and was the granddaughter of slaves and daughter of a school teacher, mother and sharecropper turned Baptist minister, father. Zora was the sixth of eight children born in Notasulga, Alabama, but later the family moved to Eatonville, Florida, what Zora would later consider home. Zora’s father became the Pastor of the most extensive church in Eatonville and would hold that title for five years.

Hurston was always curious, and when her town was visited by white teachers visiting popular black towns, they gave books to the children, Zora being one of them. Reading the books heightened Zora’s already active mind and imagination.

When Zora’s mother passed away, her father married a woman he was suspected of having an affair with, and Zora was sent away to boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida. Zora’s father refused to continue to pay her tuition to attend the school, and as a result, she was expelled. Zora was determined to continue her education and took work as a maid to pay for her schooling. Hurston was so determined to continue her education that she changed her birth year to attend school for free. After graduating in 1918, Zora studied at Howard University, where she was initiated into Zeta Phi Beta and cofounded the school newspaper known as the Hilltop.

Zora studied to become an anthropologist because she was interested in the past of African American people and wanted to hear the stories about life during slavery. Zora went to Louisiana, where she spent a good amount of time with the Black locals and learning more about Hoodoo in which she grew to believe in, according to the letters that she wrote to Langston Hughes describing some of the things that she learned about. Zora would go on to transcribe many of the slave narratives based on interviews that she held with slaves and descendants of slaves.

Not always socially acceptable, some Black critics did not write kindly about Zora’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. They thought that she should take a more serious stance as a writer and discuss critical social issues instead of a love story.

Zora didn’t stop writing and didn’t worry about what people had to say about her. Zora worked as a story consultant for Paramount Pictures for a short period before going back to Florida, where she would again have to work in a domestic capacity. Still writing, Zora submitted a short story that was published in the Saturday Evening Post, and as a result, it revived her writing income, and she was able to quit her job as a maid.

Zora would go on to write her autobiography Dust Track On The Road and many other short stories. Her work would almost be burned and lost forever after her death when her home was set afire by a yardman who had no idea who she was and what he was burning. The quick actions of a passerby saved the works that are now stored at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

In 2005 Halle Berry would take on the role of Janie Starks in the television production of Their Eyes Were Watching God, directed by Darnell Martin and produced by Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, and Matthew Carlisle.

On May 8, 2018, Amistad publishing released the 208-page story of Cudjo Lewis, the last slave entitled Barracoon.

It is not the date of our birth or the date of our death but the dash in between that really tells our story. What will your dash reveal?

The Writer

The Writer

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