"Their Eyes Were Watching God" is a novel published in 1937 by the African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston. Though initially critically panned, the book has come to be seen as an important and ground-breaking work in African-American and Women's literature of the twentieth century. It has since been adapted into many different formats including theater […]
Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston was born on January 7th, 1891 in the town of Notasulga, Alabama. One of eight siblings, Hurston was the child of a Baptist preacher and a school teacher. In 1894, Hurston's family moved to Eatonville, Florida. Eatonville was one of the first towns in the United States to be created and run entirely by black people. Hurston's father was made the mayor of the town three years later and became the town's main preacher.
Although she later moved away, Hurston always saw Eatonville as her home and later set many of her stories there as she found it an interesting way to show the lives of black people being entirely unaffected by whites.
In 1904, Hurston's father remarried and sent her away to live at a boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida. Eventually, her father cut off paying her tuition and she was expelled. With nowhere else to go, Hurston began working as a maid to the head singer of the Gilbert and Sullivan theater company.
Hurston attended Morgan college, a black college in Baltimore, Maryland in 1917 when she was 26 years old. Graduating in 1918, Hurston then went on to Howard University where she co-founded the university's student newspaper, 'The Hilltop' and later earned an associates degree in 1920.
In 1925, Hurston became one of the writers in the center of the Harlem Renaissance, a movement of black writers in New York City in the 1920's. In the early 1930's, Hurston's most well-known novel, 'Their Eyes Were Watching God' was published. By this time, Hurston was already a successful writer, having worked for several magazines and published many short stories. During this decade, Hurston also produced such titles as: 'Jonah's Gourd Vine'(1934) and 'Moses, Man of the Mountain' (1939).
Through the 1940's and 50's, Hurston continued to work at well know magazines and newspapers. Hurston also continued to attend college and went on to earn a B.A. In anthropology at the age of 37 and conducted ethnographic research.
However, later in life, Hurston's work began to suffer some criticism and she feels into obscurity. She began to suffer financial difficulties and died of heart disease in January of 1960 when she was 69 years old. For 13 years, her grave remained unmarked until Novelist Alice Walker and literary scholar Charlotte Hunt found it and put up a gravestone. This caused a renewal of attention to Hurston and a revival of the public's interest in her work. Today she is thought of as a classic author and her hometown of Eatonville holds an annual celebration in her honor.