Here’s Why We Should Be Talking About Zora Neale Hurston More


October 13, 2022

Thank you Zora!

In the world of literary icons who also doubled as activists and Black crusaders, there are those we hold in high regard, a Mount Rushmore of Black literary giants that include the likes of Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and Nikki Giovanni. And while there are a host of new Black authors giving voice to our experiences, the words of our elders remain the foundation for which all other things are built. 

Still, there are some trailblazers whose work just doesn’t get enough credit. Chief among those is Ms. Zora Neale Hurston. Born January 7, 1891, in Notasulga, Alabama, Hurston moved with her family to Eatonville, Florida when she was just a child, the rural community near Orlando becoming the place she called home. One of the country’s first incorporated Black townships, Eatonville gave Zora the affirmation of Blackness she needed to launch unapologetically into the world. 


Author Zora Neale Hurston Facts BOTWC

She eventually traveled away from home after the death of her mother, pursuing her education and allowing her intellect and wit to get her in rooms all across the nation. Considered the life of the party, a scholar, anthropologist, and a darling of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston became a favorite of many artists during the time. With a knack for words, Hurston put pen to paper to write her musings, recanting Black life and Southern folklore with an enthusiasm that would take years for her contemporaries to appreciate. In 1937, she published her timeless classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, finally receiving many of her accolades later in life. While respected among her peers, Hurston never received the financial compensation she deserved, and her work went largely hidden for generations after her death. 

In recent years, there has been a newfound interest in Hurston’s work and in 2019, HarperCollins published a collection of Hurston’s lost stories in Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick.


“These stories challenge conceptions of Hurston as an author of rural fiction and include gems that flash with her biting, satiric humor, as well as more serious tales reflective of the cultural currents of Hurston’s world,” the publisher wrote.



Hurston’s work needs to be talked about more and there are still pockets of genius left to unearth. To help us all get a head start, we’ve shared a timeline of significant milestones in Hurston’s life below, courtesy of The Official Website of Zora Neale Hurston.

January 7, 1891

Born in Notasulga, Alabama, the fifth of eight children, to John Hurston, a carpenter and Baptist preacher, and Lucy Potts Hurston, a former schoolteacher.


September 1917 – June 1918

Attends Morgan Academy in Baltimore, completing the high school requirements.


Summer 1918

Works as a waitress in a nightclub and a manicurist in a black-owned barbershop that only serves whites.


1918 – 1919

Attends Howard Prep School, Washington, D.C.


1919 – 1924

Attends Howard University; receives an associate degree in 1920.



Publishes her first story, “John Redding Goes to Sea,” in Stylus, the campus literary society’s magazine.


December 1924

Publishes “Drenched in Light,” a short story, in Opportunity.



Submits a story, Spunk, and a play, “Color Struck,” to Opportunity’s literary contest. Both win a second-place award; publishes “Spunk” in the June number.


1925 – 1927

Attends Barnard College, studying anthropology with Franz Boas.



Begins field work for Boas in Harlem.


January 1926

Publishes “John Redding Goes to Sea” in Opportunity.


Summer 1926

Organizes Fire! with Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman; they publish only one issue, in November 1926. The issue includes Hurston’s “Sweat.”


August 1926

Publishes “Muttsy” in Opportunity.


September 1926

Publishes “Possum or Pig” in the Forum.


September – November 1926

Publishes “The Eatonville Anthology” in the Messenger.



Publishes The First One, a play, in Charles S. Johnson’s “Ebony and Topaz.”


February 1927

Goes to Florida to collect folklore.


May 19, 1927

Marries Herbert Sheen.


September 1927

First visits Mrs. Rufus Osgood Mason, seeking patronage.


October 1927

Publishes an account of the black settlement at St. Augustine, Florida, in the Journal of Negro History; also in this issue: “Cudjo’s Own Story of the Last African Slaver.”


December 1927

Signs a contract with Mason, enabling her to return to the South to collect folklore.



Satirized as “Sweetie Mae Carr” in Wallace Thurman’s novel about the Harlem Renaissance Infants of the Spring; receives a Bachelor of Arts degree from Barnard.


January 1928

Relations with Sheen break off.


May 1928

Publishes “How It Feels to be Colored Me” in The World Tomorrow.


1930 – 1932

Organizes the field notes that become Mules and Men.


May – June 1930

Works on the play Mule Bone with Langston Hughes.



Publishes “Hoodoo in America” in the Journal of American Folklore.


February 1931

Breaks with Langston Hughes over the authorship of Mule Bone.


July 7, 1931

Divorces Sheen.


September 1931

Writes for a theatrical revue called Fast and Furious.


January 1932

Writes and stages a theatrical revue called The Great Day, first performed on January 10 on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre; works with the creative literature department of Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, to produce a concert program of Negro music.



Writes “The Fiery Chariot.”


January 1933

Stages From Sun to Sun (a version of Great Day) at Rollins College.


August 1933

Publishes “The Gilded Six-Bits” in Story.



Publishes six essays in Nancy Cunard’s anthology, Negro.


January 1934

Goes to Bethune-Cookman College to establish a school of dramatic arts “based on pure Negro expression.”


May 1934

Publishes Jonah’s Gourd Vine, originally titled Big Nigger; it is a Book-of-the-Month Club selection.


September 1934

Publishes “The Fire and the Cloud” in the Challenge.


November 1934

Singing Steel (a version of Great Day) was performed in Chicago.


January 1935

Begins to study for a Ph.D. in anthropology at Columbia University on a fellowship from the Rosenwald Foundation.


August 1935

Joins the WPA Federal Theater Project as a “dramatic coach.”


October 1935

Mules and Men published.


March 1936

Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to study West Indian obeah practices.


April – September 1936

In Jamaica.


September – March 1937

In Haiti; writes Their Eyes Were Watching God in seven weeks.


May 1937

Returns to Haiti on a renewed Guggenheim.


September 1937

Returns to the United States; Their Eyes Were Watching God published, September 18th.


February – March 1938

Writes Tell My Horse; it was published the same year.


April 1939

Joins the Federal Writers Project in Florida to work on The Florida Negro.



Publishes “Now Take Noses” in Cordially Yours.



Marries Albert Price.


June 1939

Receives an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Morgan State College.


Summer 1939

Hired as a drama instructor by North Carolina College for Negroes at Durham; meets Paul Green, professor of drama, at the University of North Carolina.


November 1939

Moses, Man of the Mountain published.


February 1940

Files for divorce from Price, though the two are reconciled briefly.


Summer 1940

Makes a folklore-collecting trip to South Carolina.


Spring – July 1941

Writes Dust Tracks on a Road.


July 1941

Publishes “Cock Robin, Beale Street” in the Southern Literary Messenger.


October 1941-January 1942

Works as a story consultant at Paramount Pictures.


July 1942

Publishes “Story in Harlem Slang” in the American Mercury.


September 5, 1942

Publishes a profile of Lawrence Silas in the Saturday Evening Post.


November 1942

Dust Tracks on a Road published.


February 1943

Awarded the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in Race Relations for Dust Tracks; on the cover of the Saturday Review.


March 1943

Receives Howard University’s Distinguished Alumni Award.


May 1943

Publishes “The ‘Pet Negro’ Syndrome” in the American Mercury.


November 1943

Divorce from Price granted.



Marries James Howell Pitts.


June 1944

Publishes “My Most Humiliating Jim Crow Experience” in the Negro Digest.



Writes Mrs. Doctor; it is rejected by Lippincott.


March 1945

Publishes “The Rise of the Begging Joints” in the American Mercury.


December 1945

Publishes “Crazy for This Democracy” in the Negro Digest.



Publishes a review of Robert Tallant’s Voodoo in New Orleans in the Journal of American Folklore.


May 1947

Goes to British Honduras to research black communities in Central America; writes Seraph on the Suwanee; stays in Honduras until March 1948.


October 1948

Seraph on the Suwanee published.


March 1950

Publishes “Conscience of the Court” in the Saturday Evening Post while working as a maid in Rivo Island, Florida.


April 1950

Publishes “What White Publishers Won’t Print” in the Saturday Evening Post.


November 1950

Publishes “I Saw Negro Votes Peddled” in the American Legion magazine.


Winter 1950 – 1951

Moves to Belle Glade, Florida.


June 1951

Publishes “Why the Negro Won’t Buy Communism” in the American Legion magazine.


December 8, 1951

Publishes “A Negro Voter Sizes up Taft” in the Saturday Evening Post.



Hired by the Pittsburgh Courier to cover the Ruby McCollum case.


May 1956

Receives an award for “education and human relations” at Bethune-Cookman College.


June 1956

Works as a librarian at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.


1957 – 1959

Writes a column on “Hoodoo and Black Magic” for the Fort Pierce Chronicle.



Works as a substitute teacher at Lincoln Park Academy, Fort Pierce.


Early 1959

Suffers a stroke.


October 1959

Forced to enter the St. Lucie County Welfare Home.


January 28, 1960

Dies in the St. Lucie County Welfare Home of “hypertensive heart disease”; buried in an unmarked grave in the Garden of Heavenly Rest, Fort Pierce.


August 1973

Alice Walker discovers and marks Hurston’s grave.


March 1975

Walker publishes “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston,” in Ms., launching a Hurston revival.


Zora lives! Because of her, we can. 

Here’s why we should be talking about Zora Neale Hurston more. Photo Courtesy of ZoraNealeHurston.com

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