A piece of received wisdom which Zora Neale Hurston may well have heard goes something like, “One may remove the child from the nation, but you can’t make the country out of the kid.” Please substitute girl for boy and Hurston for girl.
Hurston spent her whole life in and around the little rural town of Eatonville, Florida, where she worked as an anthropologist and then as a writer.
Even though “local colour” had fallen out of favour as a component of serious literature, Hurston used enough of it in her works, and the entrance veranda of Joe Clarke’s Eatonville shop came to symbolise safety and community for her.
Home is the location wherein, if you must travel there, they have had to take you in, as Robert Frost put it, and that scene sounds like it could have been written about that very spot. For Hurston, Eatonville served as that kind of home, but she never formally requested acceptance into the community. Instead, she incorporated Eatonville into her routine and never let it go.
Childhood And Adolescence
Hurston’s actual birthday is up for debate. She claims that she was just nine years old as her mother passed away. The 1900 census, which includes her and her entire family, incorrectly states that she was born in 1891.
She decided to give the people the year 1901 for her own motives. Sadly, she passed away on January 28th, 1960. In between, he lived an amazing 69 years. Eatonville, where Hurston set Her Eyes Were Watching God, was where she got her start in life.
Located about five miles to the north of Orlando, on the road that links Florida State Route 17 and Interstate 4, this small, all-black community was incorporated in 1866.
In Dust Trails on a Road, Hurston recounts her early life, and biographers like Robert Hemenway had to take her word for it (1942). Hers was the kind of carefree, rough-and-tumble upbringing that all kids dream of, at least till her mother’s untimely death.
Maybe because she didn’t have any maternal guidance as a child, Hurston became a very independent and fearless fighter in battles with her siblings and other guys. Like Janie in this book, she clambered trees to survey the horizon, and like Janie, she was familiar with the odour of flowers and the changing hues of the leaves in her own backyard.
Hurston would spend as much time as she was allowed in Joe Clarke’s store in Eatonville, absorbing the men’s stories and storing them away for later use.
Planting a garden of wildflowers, greens, and beans became a habit for her whenever she settled into a new location for an extended period of time as an adult. Toggle between Work and School Habit?
Hurston identifies as a scholar who has maintained a strict sense of personal seclusion throughout her life. She was an introvert, and her feelings of isolation were likely with her when she dropped out of school, ostensibly to following her mother’s wishes to “leap at de sun.”
The first meaningful job Hurston ever had was in a location that never saw the sun. After high school, she took a job as a maid for a member of a touring Gilbert and Sullivan group, where she stayed for nearly a year and a half.
Following her departure from that position, she attended Morgan Academy’s secondary school division in Baltimore, from which she graduated in 1918, and then Harvard University in D.C., for a total of five years.
Hurston struggled to make ends meet as a waitress and manicurist in the 1950s and 1960s, when job possibilities were few for women at Howard University. Despite the bleak economic climate, Hurston found this time period to be one of great joy and personal growth.
Achievements In One’s Professional Life
Zora Hurston was a writer from 1921, when she sent in her first tale (titled “John Redding Goes to Sea”) to The Stylus, Howard University’s literary society, until the late 1960s, when she addressed a goes on to highlight to a publisher in the trembling hand of an elderly woman.
Hurston may have told Alice Walker, who was looking for her grave at the time, “Mark me as a thinker.” According to Dust Tracks on a Road, Hurston is responsible for the naming of the Howard University newspaper (still in use today) The Hill Top.
When she attended Howard, she joined an elite circle of writers that included the likes of Dr. Alain Locke, a celebrated author and professor. Soon after she wrote “Drenched in Light,” she mailed it to New York editor Charles S. Johnson.
He was impressed, and as the editor of Opportunity, he decided to publish the piece. Hurston had already had some success with publishing thanks to Johnson’s publication of “Spunk,” but seeing her name in print twice encouraged her to move to New York and pursue a writing career.
Nobody else Hurston would have dared to move to New York City unemployed and with only $1.50 in her pocket. However, she did have a social life with friends.
She has encountered Johnson & his wife at Harvard University, and in her book Dust Tracks, she praised Johnson for his encouragement of young writers and detailed their encounter. She claimed that Johnson, as editor of Opportunity and supporter of young black writer, was the true originator of the so-called Negro Renaissance.
As according James Weldon Johnson, Harlem was the “cultural capital” of the African-American community during the 1920s, when the so-called “Negro Renaissance” took place.
Many also call this the Harlem Renaissance Movement, the New Negro Movement, or the Negro Renaissance Movement because of its association with the Harlem neighbourhood of New York City. African-Americans of all artistic stripes came together during this time to perform and discuss their work and the history of the African-American community.
The Harlem Renaissance saw the rise to prominence of many influential people, including Johnson, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, & Wallace Thurman. Since Hurston lived in New York around the time of the Renaissance, she is often linked to that cultural movement.
In order to make ends meet during the Great Depression, many of Harlem’s authors and artists were forced to relocate.
Hurston found it simple to make new friends in New York, and she soon found herself mixing with writers like Margaret Walker, Claude McKay, Arna Bontemps, Aaron Douglas, Jean Toomer, & Langston Hughes.
Her reputation as a captivating storyteller spread swiftly thanks to her association with the writers, artists, editors, and publishers of the Harlem Renaissance, much to the chagrin of the emerging Negro creative & literary elite, who mostly found her earthy manner distasteful. Hurston was unconcerned and continued to be herself.
Not long after, Fannie Hurst, a famous novelist of the day, promised Hurston a position, and a generous friend also provided financial assistance so that she could attend Barnard College.
The Organization to Protect the Eatonville Community, Inc., founded the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of a Humanities and the Arts long after her death. The event is typically held from Thursday afternoon until Sunday evening during the last weekend of January.