Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Zora Neale Hurston

[By Kenton Rambsy]

On yesterday, I posted on “What Wikipedia has Taught me about Alice Walker.” As a author in the “100 Novels Collection,” I composed an entry on her describing what I have learned about Walker from Wikipedia. One fact I learned was that Walker’s 1975 article “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” revived interest in Hurston’s work which had seemingly fallen into obscurity.  

Quite naturally, today I extend the discussions of what Wikipedia has taught me about novelist by focusing on Zora Neale Hurston. Last week, I provided a post on what Wikipedia taught me about her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. Today, I continue my exploration and look at the biographies that Wikipedia provides of Hurston’s life.

What I Learned From Wikipedia About Zora Neale Hurston
  • I learned that Hurston was the fifth of eight children of John Hurston and Lucy Ann Hurston.
  • I learned that her father was a Baptist preacher, tenant farmer, and carpenter, and her mother was a school teacher.
  • I learned that her father later became mayor Eatonville, Florida which Hurston would glorify in her stories as a place where African Americans could live as they desired, independent of white society.
  • I learned that in 1918, Hurston began undergraduate studies at Howard University, where she became one of the earliest initiates of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and co-founded The Hilltop, the University's student newspaper.
  • I learned Hurston left Howard in 1924 and in 1925 was offered a scholarship to Barnard College where she was the college's sole black student and received her B.A. in anthropology in 1927, when she was 36.
  • I learned that in 1927, Hurston married Herbert Sheen, a jazz musician and former classmate at Howard who would later become a physician, but the marriage ended in 1931.
  • I learned that in 1936 and 1937 she traveled to Jamaica and to Haiti with support from the Guggenheim Foundation from which her anthropological work Tell My Horse published in 1938 emerged.
  • I learned that in 1926, a group of young black writers including Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Wallace Thurman, calling themselves the Niggerati, produced a literary magazine called Fire!! that featured many of the young artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance.
  • I learned that by the mid-1930s, Hurston had published several short stories and the critically acclaimed Mules and Men (1935), a groundbreaking work of "literary anthropology" documenting African American folklore.
  • I learned that Hurston opposed the Supreme Court ruling in the Brown v. Board of Education case of 1954. She voiced this opposition in a letter, "Court Order Can't Make the Races Mix", that was published in the Orlando Sentinel in August 1955 explaining how she feared that the Court's ruling could become a precedent for an all-powerful federal government to undermine individual liberty on a broad range of issues in the future
  • I learned that on 1989 PBS aired a drama based on Hurston's life titled Zora is My Name!
  • I learned that On April 9, 2008 PBS broadcast a 90-minute documentary Zora Neale Hurston: Jumpat the Sun written and produced by filmmaker Kristy Andersen, as part of the American Masters series.
  • I learned Hurston’s full bibliography of work.

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