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Remembering Zora Neale Hurston As The Phenomenal Storyteller She Was

collage of pictures of Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston was an author, anthropologist, and folklorist. Her work captured the richness and complexity of African American life, celebrating its joys and sorrows.

PBS American Experience Documentary: Zora Neale Hurston episode

In Hurston’s early life she grew up in Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated Black town in the U.S., where she absorbed the richness of the town’s culture and tradition. This community influenced the dialect, folklore, and Southern charm infused in her stories. This community was also the foundation of her anthropological studies.

 Her academic journey led her to Howard University and Barnard College for her higher education. At Howard University, she worked on her writing, created Howard University’s newspaper The Hilltop, and interacted with other literary giants of the Harlem Renaissance such as Langston Hughes. At Barnard College, she studied under renowned anthropologist Franz Boas, who is also referred to as the “Father of American Anthropology.” 


Hurston’s anthropological research contributed significantly to the understanding of Black oral traditions. She collected stories and songs from Black communities across the South. She went on to write anthropological works, “Mules and Men” and “Tell My Horse,” that delved into Black folklore and oral traditions. 

She also used her findings in anthropology to create fiction writings that were authentic and empathic to the marginalized communities represented in her work. Her masterpiece, “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” is a testament to this approach. The novel follows main character Janie Crawford, a Black woman who seeks self-discovery, fulfillment, love, and liberation set in Eatonville, Florida.

Zora Neale Hurston’s works explore themes of identity, gender, race, and resilience with unwavering honesty and captivating prose. Such works continue to resonate with readers and writers today.

Want To Learn More?

  • Read Hurston’s Work: Start with “Their Eyes Were Watching God” or “Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” for a great introduction to her writing.
  • Watch the PBS American Masters Documentary on Zora Neale Hurston here.

Remember, history is about the stories we tell, the voices we listen to, and the lessons we learn from the past.


Written with lots of care, 


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P.S. Share in the comments your thoughts on Zora Neale Hurston’s work and legacy.

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