“I have the nerve to walk my own way, however hard, in my search for reality, rather than climb upon the rattling wagon of wishful illusions."
- Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston was an incredibly accomplished author who showed just how inspiring people could truly be. Despite being fairly unnoticed for a time, she was always destined for greatness. Hurston’s unfavorable position as an African American woman living in the south only encouraged her to work harder to spread her literary wonders. Likewise, Hurston’s perseverance is best exemplified through her academic integrity.
Both of Hurston’s parents were enslaved, but they didn’t let that hold them back. After Hurston’s family relocated to Eatonville, Florida, her dad eventually became one of the first mayors there. She lied about her age to go to high school at Morgan College as she was actually in her twenties at the time. With a stunning personality and a youthful appearance, Hurston was able to fully convince others of her exaggerated age.
After completing her high school education, she earned an associate’s degree at Howard University in 1920. While at Howard, she co-founded The Hilltop, which later ended up as the school’s acclaimed newspaper. After completing her associate’s degree, Hurston earned a scholarship at Barnard College, where she earned a BA in anthropology after only three years.
Hurston’s time in New York allowed her to meet other remarkable writers such as Langton Hughes and Countee Cullen. At the same time, Hurston and many others were beginning to voice their concerns about discrimination through the Harlem Renaissance. However, she didn’t stop there. Throughout her life, she continuously gave prominence to the black community. To gain a better understanding of black culture, she traveled to places such as Jamaica and Haiti where she studied the various religions present there and later used her various findings as inspiration for her writing.
Unfortunately, her stories didn’t achieve much of an impact throughout her early career, and it took nearly two decades for Hurston to gain the recognition she deserved. It wasn’t until the mid-30s when she started producing more novels, each with significant effects. Her most renowned work, Their Eyes Were Watching God, was published in 1937 and featured a remarkable tale of a black woman named Janie Crawford.
In addition to her skills as a writer, Hurston was also taught others to follow in her footsteps. For example, Hurston was instrumental in the founding of the dramatic arts program at Bethune-Cookman College. More importantly, she was a drama teacher for five years at North Carolina College for Negroes in Durham (now North Carolina Central University).
For all her astounding accomplishments, Hurston never received the praise she deserved. Due to her status as a minority, she was underpaid despite overwhelming acclaim for her works, with the largest sum she ever earned for one of her stories being only $943.75. After she died in 1960, Hurston faded into irrelevance for some time. However, due to the sudden resurgence of her writings in the late 20th century, her legacy of triumph and perseverance is preserved.
Boyd, Valerie. “About Zora Neale Hurston.” Zora Neale Hurston, The New Dynamic, www.zoranealehurston.com/about/.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Zora Neale Hurston". Encyclopedia Britannica, 24 Jan. 2021, www.britannica.com/biography/Zora-Neale-Hurston.
Norwood, Arlisha. "Zora Hurston." National Women's History Museum. National Women's History Museum, 2017, www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/zora-hurston.